Fall Interns Attend Double Programming Event: Secret Service and Human Trafficking Panels

Fall Interns Attend Double Programming Event: Secret Service and Human Trafficking Panels

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Maha Neouchy
December 03, 2012

The Legal Externship and Law & Criminal Justice programs welcomed three panelists as part of a special 2012 Speaker Event. Panelists included:


Jill McPhillips has served as a special agent with the Secret Service since 2000. She spoke about the path leading up to her current position, which included the different internships she held before deciding on a career with the Secret Service. Before her recruitment to the competitive federal agency, she completed a Masters at American University in Justice, Law and Society. She also completed internships at the Bridgeport Police Crime Division and State Probation Office.


After being recruited for the Secret Service, Jill shared that it was crucial to keep an open mind. She was relocated from Washington, D.C. to the Los Angeles Field Office and received training in a series of fields including:


  • Threat cases
  • Protection
  • Emergency medicine
  • Control tactics

Jill ended her session by telling fall interns about how to go about applying for a position with the Secret Service, which included advice on both the application process and a discussion on background issues that would disqualify prospective applicants.


Human Trafficking Speakers


During the second session, fall interns heard from a panel on human trafficking. David Slavick, TWC's Law and Criminal Justice Program Advisor, moderated the discussion between Elaine Panter, Director of Programs and Planning for The Protection Project at John Hopkins University, and Ari Redbord, D.C. Assistant United States Attorney and Coordinator for the D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force.


During her time at The Protection Project, Elaine has conducted research and analysis in addition to running programs on human rights in the Middle East. Many of her efforts include facilitating conversations with religious leaders and discuss issues affecting their communities. Ari on the other hand prosecutes different crimes with a focus on the sexual exploitation of children. He had always known he wanted to prosecute but never knew it would entail fighting issues like trafficking, sexual crimes and domestic violence. He has found it to be the "most gratifying experience he's every been through."


Moderated Panel


David: Elaine, can you tell me about your background and how you got into your profession? How do you measure outcomes for policy and other complex global issues?


Elaine: I studied in Italy and I knew since I was 16 that I wanted to go into human rights. I didn’t care about the money or how I was going to get there, but I knew that was my focus. When I was in boarding school, I began working for Amnesty International where I learned to write letters and read more about the issues. I wasn't really sure about what human rights topics I was interested in because there are a host of them. In the human trafficking field, there are a number of different approaches. When I receive applications, I'm very turned off by people who don't know exactly what field of human rights they want to work in. So the advice that I would give to students interested in trafficking is to understand the specific field they want to work in.


I decided to do my Masters at SAIS. I went to SAIS and chose every single class that I could do in Human Rights, Islamic Law, really anything that had to do with International Law. From there I was lucky enough to work at The Protection Project, as an intern and then as an employee. It was there that I realized that I needed hard skills and decided to go back to law school.


David: What surprised you most about your work?


Ari: Probably really caring about the victims that we prosecute in our office. We have an entire section that works on victims and security issues about how to keep these people safe. The real focus is on protecting the victims and getting them the services they need. This is a little off, but people ask me all the time if they should go to law school and that’s a very different question than "should I be a lawyer?" You have to make those decisions for yourself. What law school gave me was a really amazing way to approach a problem. I learned next to nothing practical when I went to law school but you really really learn how to think through a problem. If it's something you can afford, I'd recommend it.


I think the other big surprise is that after going through so many iterations of my career, I'm the kind of lawyer they told you you'd never be when you were in law school: "Well you're never going to be in court, you're never going to be trying cases, you're never going to be walking around the courtroom trying to catch people in lies." Those "aha" moments are few and far in between but when they happen, you go home after a trial and it seems like you've scored a touchdown. I particularly enjoy working with victims. Their lives could not be more different than mine and learning how to relate to people who have been through so much, people who have been abused, people without parents, children whose parents sold them for sex, things you cannot believe…I really enjoy helping those people. And when I was in private practice, I never imagined myself enjoying it this much.


Elaine: Definitely the most tricky but also rewarding task is getting the message across. First, is the complex aspect of the crime itself. The definition is very different and people have a hard time understanding what trafficking is about. And so it gets really complicated for researchers and especially the general public to understand. Also, every organization has different definitions of what trafficking means. It's very difficult to clearly define what trafficking is and pin it down in one definition.


The other tricky part is the cultural interaction, which also makes it difficult to get the message across again. We work with a lot of international people. I was raised with Christian values and then you go to the Middle East and it becomes hard even to dialogue, even with professors and scholars about why they should prosecute. The "mental gymnastics" is more challenging than you would think. Everybody has a different cultural background, but you have to work with what you have.


David: If you could tell the students today one thing that they could do to help this issue, what would you recommend?


Elaine: Really just read about it. Talk to your friends. If you're seriously interested in working in the trafficking field, I would suggest giving me a phone call or shooting me an email. Make sure you identify what field you're interested in. You have to know which one would be best for you. And of course, don't do it for the money and try to get as much work experience as you can before you graduate. Talk to somebody, shadow someone, and get some real hard experience. If you have that passion, know what you want to do and you're proactive, I guarantee there will be an opportunity.


Ari: In terms of what you can do, I would approach these issues on a case-by-case basis and be as practical as possible.


[View photos of the event on our Flickr channel]

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