Minnesota Law

Summer 2023
For the Record

Summer Experiences: Kayla Haeg, 3L

Legal intern, Alaska Public Defender Agency in Anchorage, Alaska

Kayla Haeg, 3L

Kayla Haeg, 3L, is from Soldotna, Alaska, and attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks for her undergraduate degree. She worked as a legal intern at the Alaska Public Defender Agency in Anchorage this summer. This fall, she will start work as a student director for both the Criminal Defense Clinic and Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Moot Court program. In the spring, she will return as a student instructor for the Law in Practice program and will be participating on the Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition Team this year.

How did you connect with or find this summer opportunity?

I found this position while working at the Federal Public Defender in Anchorage last summer. The legal community is very tight in Alaska, so it’s easy to make connections at networking events (and local dive bars).


How does your experience connect with what you currently envision doing with your law degree?

This amazing experience gave me the final push to pursue public defense work. I manage my own misdemeanor caseload of clients. In that role, I’m responsible for all client communications, motion work, discovery review, and representing clients in their bail hearings, changes of plea, and even trials. After learning the inner workings of public defense, I now envision myself representing clients as a public defender back in the Twin Cities after graduation.


Please describe a “typical” workday on the job.

My workday starts either at the office or in jail. The interns provide coverage for other attorneys and make in-custody bail arguments on their behalf. After I make bail arguments in jail court, I’ll drive back to the office and draft motions for both felony and misdemeanor cases. Right now, I’m working on a motion to suppress and a motion to dismiss an indictment. In the afternoon, I cover out-of-custody bail hearings and changes of plea in district court. Finally, about 2-3 times a week, I cover arraignments back in jail court. In Alaska, defense attorneys must make bail arguments on the spot, often seeing the criminal complaint for the first time at the podium in front of the judge. Sometimes you don’t have enough time to interview a client before you must make arguments on their behalf. It’s a high-stress situation that taught me how intense public defense work can be.


What is something you learned or experienced that was surprising or particularly compelling during this summer position?

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this internship was how quickly the agency took our “training wheels” off. I was supervised by an attorney for about two weeks before I was making bail arguments on my own in court. Within the first month, I got two of my clients’ cases dismissed, drafted my first motion, and even made a probable cause argument at arraignments that got someone’s charge dismissed and helped free them from jail. It’s amazing to see how much you can accomplish with only two years of law school under your belt. 


What are a couple of your key takeaways from the experience so far?

This might not come as a shock, but the key takeaway I’ve gleaned from this experience is that the criminal legal system needs a major overhaul. While I absolutely adored this internship, it also forced me to face injustices like racism, transphobia, and homelessness almost every day. I can tell you right now, public defense is not for the weak of heart.


How has your summer experience compared with your expectations?

This internship far exceeded my expectations in terms of practical experience. I’ve arguably learned more about the criminal legal system within the past three months than I did during the first two years of law school.


What advice would you offer another law student thinking about working in a similar position next summer?

I would advise other law students who are interested in public defense work to find an internship that allows you to argue in court. In Alaska, students who have completed their second year of law school (and a course in evidence) can receive a permit to appear in court and represent their own clients in misdemeanor matters. If you’re interested in Alaska specifically, there’s offices with intern positions across the state, including rural areas like Kodiak Island, Nome, and even Utqiagvik (the northernmost city in the United States).


How are you spending your free time this summer?

Since this may be my last summer in Alaska, I’ve spent most of my spare time traveling around the state. I hiked mountains in Anchorage, explored glaciers in Seward, went dog mushing in Fairbanks, and will tour Juneau shortly after I finish my internship. If you’re into the outdoors, it’s impossible to beat Alaskan summers.


What are you most looking forward to in returning to Minnesota Law this fall?

I look forward to catching up with friends and faculty next semester. My friends and I have already planned a trip to the UP in the fall to watch the colors change. It’ll be a nice change of pace, as the only two seasons in Alaska are winter and construction.