Recent SMSU grad learns the legal system

Alexandria native interns at the YMC County Attorney’s office

Photo by Jim Muchlinski SMSU graduate Madison Getz of Alexandria, who lives in Granite Falls, is completing a summer undergraduate internship at the Yellow Medicine County Attorney’s office. She’s the first college summer intern to work in the department.

GRANITE FALLS — Madison Getz is spending much of her summer of 2019 working on the front lines of county-based legal business.

Getz, who graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in May with a four-year degree in justice administration, is assisting Yellow Medicine County Attorney Keith Helgeson and his staff with the processing of both civil and criminal legal documents. She also observes court activity for firsthand experience in watching the legal process unfold.

After graduating from Alexandria High School in 2017 with a sizable number of college credits attained through Minnesota’s post-secondary enrollment option, she completed her final two years of undergraduate work this spring.

Her justice administration degree included classes taught by two SMSU professors with experience as prosecutors.

Her internship in Yellow Medicine County was organized after a recommendation from faculty member Amanda Sieling, who served as one of Helgeson’s assistant attorneys. Another of Getz’s professors, B.C. Franson, is a former assistant to Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes.

“My internship is similar in many ways to things I learned in my classes,” Getz said. “I was better prepared to do this than I thought. One of the reasons is that my professors have experience with the same kind of legal work.”

Her summer learning opportunity is taking place on a full-time basis until she completes the 400 hours required for academic credits.

She said it’s been a good introduction to what it will be like to have a full-time work schedule. Although it occupies a large share of every week day, she’s also taking time to enjoy the summer months with activities such as reading and the outdoors.

Monday is usually her busiest, least predictable day of the week since it’s the day of many of the county’s court hearings.

She spends a substantial share of her office time helping to process documents needed to move legal business from its starting point to its final result. As she helps to compile case records, she’s able to follow cases as they move through the justice system and learn why it often takes substantial amounts of time before a legal concern is resolved.

Having majored in justice administration, she began the internship process with a well-rounded knowledge of data privacy regulations associated with legal matters and how they must be followed in every situation, both on the job and in activities away from work.

Now that she’s nearing the end of her undergraduate studies, she’s considering options for either moving into a graduate program right away or gaining full-time year-round work experience. She said her basic interest in earning a law degree has grown as a result of her classroom and internship experiences.

“I’ve thought for a long time that legal work would be a good option for me,” Getz said. “I’ve been especially interested in criminal law. It’s an opportunity to serve the public.”

Helgeson said the department’s first summer internship process has led to rewards for staff members in return for the mentorship that’s being provided.

“Madison’s very interested in the law,” he said. “I could tell right away that she came into the internship with a really good foundation from college classes. Based on the results we’ve had this summer, I’m interested in providing the same kind of opportunity again for other students.”

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