Clinic students during a planning meeting
Want to learn more about clinical legal education in law school? These students, all graduates of the Class of 2018, will walk you through their first-hand clinic experiences in everything from family law to immigration to government to prosecution.
Law school clinical programs afford students invaluable hands-on opportunities, as they get to represent real clients in real cases, under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Legal clinics can bring your classroom learning to life, and they can even help clarify your career goals. Not to mention it’s the kind of hands-on experience that employers love to see.
You can get a better sense of what legal clinics are like by reading the profiles below, as New England Law | Boston students share their clinical experiences.
Candice Carrington, Class of 2018
I came to New England Law | Boston with the goal of gaining practical experience that would help me become a skilled attorney and a marketable job applicant in my legal career. I achieved these goals through my participation in the Health Law, Business and Intellectual Property, and Lawyering Process clinics.
During the fall semester of 2016, I was accepted in the Health Law clinic, where I worked in the law school’s in-house clinic, the Clinical Law Office at Church Street, as a student attorney under Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. While there, I worked side-by-side with my supervising attorney, who was a full-time faculty member at the school, representing a client in a dispute with the Social Security Administration. I also drafted advance planning documents on behalf of a different client. This clinic allowed me to work on legal matters from start to finish and has taught me how to interview and build relationships with clients, request and gather evidence, plan cases, perform legal research, prepare a client before a hearing, develop and present legal arguments, and write a will, power of attorney, and health care proxy. Although I enjoyed this experience overall, the most exciting part was representing my client at a social security disability hearing because I had the opportunity to give an opening statement, ask my client questions pertaining to his cases before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and obtain a positive outcome for my client at the hearing. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding practical experience to kick off my legal career.
This experience led me to apply to the Business and Intellectual Property Clinic the following semester. I was accepted in this clinic, where I worked in the Health Information Systems (HIS) Department at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) as a Privacy Specialist Intern. During this internship, I helped the HIS team investigate HIPAA cases and apply the facts in each case to state and federal privacy regulations to determine whether or not there had been a breach of protected health information. In addition, I researched the law surrounding whether there is a private right of action for a HIPAA breach and wrote a paper on my findings. Although this was a nontraditional legal job, it was a great experience and it allowed me to further my research, writing, and analytical skills as well as work as a team player.
After having two great clinical experiences, I applied and was accepted into the Lawyering Process clinic during my last semester of law school. I worked at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) in the Elder, Heath, and Disability Unit as a student attorney under SJC Rule 3:03. This experience was similar to my Health Law clinic placement, but it allowed me to handle more disability cases with the Social Security Administration as well as MassHealth. At GBLS, I was treated as an actual attorney, where I managed and built the cases from the bottom up. I did everything from drafting and filing memoranda for Administrative Law Judge hearings, developing the evidentiary record, planning cases, maintaining frequent contact with clients and prepping them for their hearing to representing them at their hearing, citing arguments on the record, and requesting permission to enter evidence as exhibits at the hearing.
Overall, my clinical experiences have taught me a great deal about what it takes to be an attorney. I would recommend applying for at least one legal clinic during your law school career because you will learn a number of valuable and transferable skills, such as how to interview and build relationships with clients, request and gather evidence, case plan, perform legal research, counsel clients, conduct negotiations, and form and present legal arguments, like I have, that will help you become a marketable and well-prepared candidate in your legal career.
Ashley Groves, Class of 2018
I chose to attend New England Law knowing I wanted to become a lawyer to help people. I already had it in my head that I wanted to work in family law, but I did not have any specific path in mind. I was not sure if I wanted to go into private practice or work with low-income litigants. New England Law provided me with plenty of opportunities to practice real-world skills to accompany my classroom learning. I now have a better grasp on how I would like to spend my legal career after the Bar. I was not only able to work in public interest law through the school’s Summer Fellowship Program, the clinical program, and as a volunteer, but I also joined the school’s Public Interest Law Association, a student group, where I served as treasurer my last two years of law school.
During my 1L spring I interviewed for and obtained a summer internship at the Court Service Center through the Summer Fellowship Program. The Court Service Center caters to persons who are unable to hire or afford an attorney and who require assistance with forms and understanding the court process. It was honestly one of the most enlightening and challenging experiences of my life. From the very first day I was tasked with client intake and completing court forms. It involved a great deal of deciphering the litigant’s issue based on the story that they provided and determining the options available to help that person reach their end goal. I would work one-on-one with pro se litigants in all aspects of their family law and housing matters. The training I received was great, but I learned so much more by being thrown into the chaos and asking questions. I also had an amazing supervisor who made every experience a learning opportunity without me even realizing.
A lot of the people I saw at the Court Service Center were in a position where they could not afford an attorney, but they also were not in a financial position to qualify for free legal assistance. I could sense their frustration and wanted to do as much as I could to help. Some of the legal issues seemed minor, such as simple name changes, but others had significant impacts on the lives of the litigants. Children, marriages, and housing arrangements were on the line, and the cases were often too complex for us to handle without providing legal advice. This was the point where I realized that assisting low- to moderate-income persons is exactly what I wanted to do with my law degree.
I was glad that I had the opportunity to work at the Court Service Center, and I was asked to continue there as a volunteer during my 2L year. I spent one day a week at the Center until I signed up for the Family Law Clinic through New England Law. I was immediately placed with the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, specifically working during their weekly family law clinic, which happened to be held at the Court Service Center. Under the guidance of the supervising attorney, I was given the chance to practice providing legal advice and digging into some of the same cases that I had first come into contact with during my Summer Fellowship. I was even exposed to an entire case from the intake stage all the way through an uncontested divorce hearing.
It was eye opening to see the effect my help was having on the people who needed it most, and it only strengthened the thought that I wanted to be a family law attorney. The only difference is that I would someday like to open my own firm dedicated to providing affordable legal services to those who fall into the gray area of not being able to practically afford counsel but also not qualifying for free legal help. Until then I intend to continue volunteering at the Court Service Center, facing new challenges to expand my legal knowledge every day.
Immigration law, family law
Lesly Suriel-Guerrero, Class of 2018
One of my favorite parts of law school was being part of the clinical law program. When I first started law school, I was focused on immigration law. I entered with the mindset of becoming an immigration law attorney and taking classes that prepared me for that pathway. I knew the legal clinics would provide me with legal experience and connections, and it was one of the main reasons I chose New England Law.
My first clinic was the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic during the first semester of my 2L year. I interned at the Clinical Law Office under the supervision of Professor Mitchell-Munevar. This experience was a pivotal moment in my law school career as well as my future profession. I was certified as a student attorney under the Massachusetts student practice rule, SJC Rule 3:03. I was able to represent clients in family law matters. The experience taught me how to communicate with clients, obtain the information necessary to do the best job possible, create a relationship built with trust, and draft court pleadings and documents as well as appear in front of a judge. It gave me the confidence to work independently and know I was in the profession I was passionate about because I was helping individuals who needed legal services but also needed to be shown respect, dedication, and understanding for the situation they were experiencing.
The clinic also showed me the importance of having a great supervising attorney and support system when representing clients. Professor Mitchell-Munevar treated me as an attorney: she provided guidance and observation but allowed me to follow my instincts and she trusted my work. The Clinical Law Office was one of my favorite places to work in because of the staff, who truly wanted students to succeed and get as much experience as possible.
Related: What Are Law School Clinical Programs Really Like? Students Explain
My second clinic was the Immigration Law Clinic. I wanted to pursue my old passion after finding a new passion in the law. I interned at Costa & Riccio, LLP, and worked on business immigration matters such as employment visas: visas for exceptional ability, outstanding researchers, and national interests. I always wanted to focus on immigration law matters concerning adjustment of status, keeping families together, and human interest, but this internship showed me a different side of immigration law, one that is very important and benefits many individuals in the United States. It also allowed me to acquire new skills in a different legal area. I practiced immigration law at Roman Law Offices too. I was able to work independently on special juvenile immigration status cases for undocumented children under eighteen years old as well as those older for specific equity cases. I drafted court pleadings for guardianship, custody, and equity cases. I also interviewed with clients and handled all aspects of their case. I was able to work on two very different sides of immigration law and obtained a lot of experience.
My third clinic was the Massachusetts Practice Clinic. I did an externship at the Suffolk County Superior Court, first assigned to the Clerk’s office. It was an eye-opening experience because I got to see inside the courthouse, how it functions, and all the hard work everyone has to do to make the court work efficiently. Having an inside view allowed me to understand the justice system better and see how all aspects must cooperate: court staff, attorneys, and legal staff and clients. I was also able to observe court hearings and trials; watching other lawyers, I learned how to behave in front of judges and the best ways to approach different situations or questions that arise during court proceedings. I was also able to see jury duty and how individuals are chosen. It was a great experience that taught me more about Massachusetts’ laws and court procedures.
My fourth clinic was the Family Law Clinic. I decided to finish my law school career with my new passion. I interned for Casa Myrna Vasquez, which provides legal services for survivors of domestic violence. I absolutely loved it. I learned so much about the importance of building a relationship with a client in such a tough situation, to make sure to listen to them, to be neutral and not bring any biases to the table. I drafted letters, court pleadings, and documents to represent my clients. I worked independently knowing that my supervising attorney trusted me to do my assigned work. I was also able to hold client meetings and lead them, giving the client advice, support, and education about their legal matter, as well as simply listening to their decision. A lot that has to be done in respect to domestic violence matters and how it is handled in courts, but providing legal services to survivors and giving them a voice and a chance made this clinic the best experience for me. I was able to see how much an attorney or legal staff can affect a person’s life, and being part of that is very gratifying.
The clinic program provides legal experience, skills, and education about whatever law field a person is passionate about. It gives students the opportunity to act and feel like attorneys, provides them with confidence and responsibilities that prepares them for their future. It also gives the students connections to the legal world and a support system through Professor Engler, the director of the clinical program, as well as the staff at the Clinical Law Office, and each supervising attorney and professor for the clinics. It is an experience I would recommend to any student already at New England Law and those thinking of enrolling.
Criminal law, prosecution
Victor John, Class of 2018
I started law school unsure of what I wanted to do with my career. All I knew was that I wanted to work directly with people and make a positive impact. My first clinic was the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic, which I took in the fall of 2016, my second year in law school. I chose a placement at the school’s in-house clinic and was supervised by a full-time New England Law professor. I also was certified as a student attorney under the Massachusetts student practice Rule, SJC Rule 3:03. I worked with clients on divorce matters and got my first taste of court—it was terrifying, but I loved it.
In the seminar portion of the clinic I learned more about criminal law and was particularly drawn to prosecution as a public interest position. I had never thought about it that way. As such, in the summer of 2017, I worked at the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in East Boston. The work was thrilling. I got to argue motions in front of the judge, I was forced to think on my feet, and I learned more than I ever thought I would about prosecution. I absolutely loved it.
In the fall of 2017, I took the Criminal Procedure II Clinic and worked in the same office but this time in South Boston. Because I already had some experience, I was able to handle most of the discovery for the office and argue motions with little to no oversight from my supervisor. I prepped a few trials too.
Looking back, the clinics I did inspired me to be a prosecutor. I learned then that no lawyer has more influence over the criminal process and the lives of others than the prosecutor. The position is a tremendous opportunity both to serve the community and practice public interest law.
Based on my experience in the clinics and in my summer position, I decided to apply to District Attorney Offices for a full-time position after graduation. I will be starting as an Assistant District Attorney at Essex County in September of 2018, and I'm so thankful for the public interest experience I've had at New England Law. Through this experience, I feel prepared for the job.
Related: What Public Interest Law Means to Me: Law Students Speak
Public interest law, employment law
Ashley Johnson, Class of 2018
Public interest law was not something I just fell into; I enrolled in law school with a commitment to and a passion for public interest law. Before law school, I was a law clerk with the Defender Association of Philadelphia. As a law clerk, I worked with several public defenders, and I helped hundreds of indigent clients expunge their criminal records, obtain gainful employment, and secure stable housing opportunities. I really enjoyed helping indigent clients improve their quality of life, and I was inspired by the passionate and dedicated team of public defenders I worked with. It was after this work experience that I decided to become a public defender. So when I began law school, I was determined to expose myself to public interest law as much as possible so I could prepare myself for a career as a public defender.
During law school, I interned with the Harvard Defenders, two public defender offices, and several public interest organizations. In the spring of my 1L year, I interned with Greater Boston Legal Services’ CORI & Reentry Project, where I helped low-income individuals with sealing their criminal records. Then summer after my 1L year, I was a Litman Fellow with the Harvard Defenders. I secured this fellowship through New England Law’s Winter Massachusetts Law School Consortium (MLSC) Interview Program. As a Litman Fellow, I had the unique opportunity as a rising 2L to handle my own criminal cases. Handling my own cases involved interviewing clients, conducting extensive investigations, developing my own litigation strategies, and ultimately presenting my cases to clerk magistrates in Boston area criminal courts.
In the fall of my 2L year, I enrolled in the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic. For my clinic work I interned with The Volunteer Lawyers Project’s (VLP) Housing Unit as a student attorney under Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. After taking Property II my 1L year, I became interested in landlord-tenant law, so I jumped at the chance to explore this area further. While at VLP, I helped draft a motion for summary judgment, gave counseling to low-income clients in housing court, argued a motion for a temporary restraining order, and assisted clients with mediation. Although I had an enjoyable internship experience at VLP, I learned that housing law was not for me.
The summer after my second year of law school, I had another unique internship opportunity, this time with the Legal Aid Society’s Parole Revocation Defense Unit (PRDU). This internship was unpaid, but I was fortunate enough to receive a Public Interest Law Association (PILA) summer grant to cover my rent and living expenses. As a PRDU intern, I helped parole defense attorneys defend indigent clients charged with parole violations by conducting legal research and drafting legal memorandums. I also represented clients at their final parole revocation hearing. More specifically, I interviewed clients, made legal arguments before administrative law judges, and obtained favorable outcomes for my clients.
During the fall of my 3L year, I enrolled in another clinic, the Criminal Procedure II Clinic, which allows students to work in either a prosecution or defense setting for credit. Since my 1L year, I had looked forward to enrolling in this clinic, and I was happy to be selected to participate in this clinic. I interned at the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), the public defenders’ organization in Massachusetts, in the Roxbury office as a 3:03 certified student attorney. This was my most memorable and most enjoyable clinical experience because I represented indigent clients at arraignment, developed my own bail arguments, made bail arguments before district court judges, drafted motions to dismiss, and argued motions to dismiss before district court judges.
Although I was tempted to try to stay at CPCS for my final semester, I also wanted to gain some legal experience in employment law before I graduated. So in my last semester of law school, I secured an internship at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). This internship was unpaid, so I was able to receive credit through the Administrative Law Clinic. As an intern at MCAD, I investigated employment discrimination cases, drafted dispositions for my cases, and made recommendations to the Commissioner.
All in all, I had so many invaluable internship and clinical experiences throughout my time at New England Law, and I look forward to using the skills I developed from these experiences in my future legal career.
Bria Lewis, Class of 2018
From the time I was in eighth grade, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, but I didn’t understand the various types of law that were possible areas for practice. During my years in undergrad, I was a member of the Pre-Law Association. For one of our meetings, we had an immigration professor from Pace Law School come and speak to us. She talked about how there are a lot of lawyers who take advantage of the immigrants that come into this country and how this can prolong an immigrant’s efforts to gain legal status. I immediately thought about my family, which immigrated from Jamaica, and what would have happened if they had this type of experience with a lawyer. This is the moment I knew I wanted to do immigration law.
I loved that New England Law had so many opportunities for me to practice in immigration before graduating. The summer after my first year of law school, I was able to intern at Costa & Riccio through the Summer Fellowship Program. This was a business immigration law firm in Boston. While I enjoyed my time at Costa & Riccio, I learned that business-related immigration was not for me. This is part of why doing clinics and internships are so great: they show you areas of law that you like and don't like. Law school is the perfect time to try different areas of law, and clinics and internships give you the opportunity to do that.
During my 2L year, I worked at the in-house New England Law | Boston Clinical Law Office through the Lawyering Process Clinic. I was certified as a student attorney under Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03, the student practice rule. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this clinic because I had a lot of client interaction, I could speak directly with opposing counsel, and I was able to draft a parenting time agreement. I was able to use many of the skills I learned during this clinic in the remainder of my clinical experiences at New England Law.
The summer after my second year, I interned at Greater Boston Legal Services in the Housing Unit. While this internship was the farthest from immigration of any of my previous work, it was still a great experience. I was able to build on the skills I had learned from the in-house clinic. I was also able to perform legal research and draft a motion in limine for an eviction case, as well as write an appeal memo for a shelter termination case. These documents later became writing samples I could submit for future internship and job opportunities.
During my last year of law school, both of my internships focused on immigration law. In the fall of my 3L year, I interned at Dove, Inc. I loved my time at Dove because I was able to see how immigration law correlated with domestic violence through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and U visa cases. (Per the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: “The U nonimmigrant status [U visa] is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse.”) I earned the school’s Public Service Transcript Notation for my volunteer work at Dove as well.
This internship also helped build a foundation for my last internship through the immigration clinic, where I was placed at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) in the Immigration Unit. At GBLS I was able to see a U visa case from beginning to end. I had the opportunity to write an affidavit for a VAWA case. I was also able to work on other immigration matters, such as adjustment of status, employment authorization, and asylum cases. These internships made me realize that this was the type of immigration law I enjoyed and hoped to practice after law school.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of my clinical and internship opportunities while at New England Law. Each experience has better prepared me for the future as an attorney.
Stephanie Naranjo, Class of 2018
I entered into law school interested in international and immigration law. I was very excited to learn about the school’s clinical program and also wanted to take advantage of the summer months in between semesters to gain more experience. Classes teach a lot about the law, but internships and clinics allow students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real cases.
During my 1L to 2L summers, I had the opportunity to intern for the immigration unit at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). GBLS has a very good reputation for serving low-income people in Massachusetts in different areas of law. I mainly worked on asylum applications. Although interviewing clients about their fear to return to their country was emotionally difficult at times, having the opportunity to go to immigration court and witness three clients whose cases I worked on receive asylum is very gratifying. For the summer after my 1L year, I received a Summer Fellowship from the school for my work at GBLS. I enjoyed working at GBLS so much I returned as a volunteer for two semesters.
I participated in the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic in the fall of my second year, which allowed me to practice as a student attorney certified under Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. I had the amazing privilege to work with Professor Mitchell-Munevar who taught me to be confident in the courtroom, showed me how to conduct an interview using an interpreter so that the client feels comfortable, and helped me develop my legal writing. I worked with clients to petition for child custody and divorce stemming from abusive relationships.
It had never crossed my mind to practice family law, but this experience showed me the positive impact family law attorneys have on people who are trying to escape terrible situations makes the work worthwhile. Professor Engler’s Public Interest Law Seminar was one of the best and most engaging classes I have taken during my time at the law school. I was able to learn more about the important work and social issues public interest attorneys face in their work.
For my 3L spring break, two of my fellow classmates and I decided to travel to Dilley, Texas, to volunteer for the CARA Pro Bono Project. CARA is a collaboration of legal organizations that provides legal services for women and children who have been detained along the Mexican border and are sent to one of the largest detention centers in the United States, the South Texas Family Residential Center. The women and children who enter this facility are escaping countries, mostly in Central and South America, that are experiencing violence. They often enter the United States to seek asylum but are separated from family members at the border. I prepared clients for their credible fear interviews and assisted with a motion to appeal a decision for one of the client’s denial to their reasonable fear interview. As much as the women thanked me for preparing them for their interviews, I felt grateful for their trusting me enough to tell me about their horrific experiences. The work the CARA project does is very inspiring. Public interest law can be emotional, but I believe it is the most rewarding work.
Government, public interest law
Stacie Pavao, Class of 2018
I’ve always known I wanted to become a lawyer, but I didn't always know what area of law I was interested in pursuing. During my undergraduate studies, I did an internship at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in the Charities Division working on investigations involving the Boston Marathon One Fund. I fell in love with the public interest aspect of government work and the larger societal impact it had.
During my years as a full-time day student at New England Law | Boston, I took advantage of the clinical program every chance I could to gain as much experience in public interest as possible. In the fall of my 2L year, I enrolled in the Administrative Law Clinic to continue pursing my interest in governmental public interest work. I worked as a legal intern for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue in the Litigation Bureau.
In the spring, I took the Federal Courts Clinic, where I interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Civil Rights Division. This was my most enjoyable clinical experience. I spent the entire semester working on an investigation into a violation of the public accommodations provision of the ADA by a prominent private school in the Boston area. I was able to sit in on informal depositions and even had the opportunity to meet the little girl with a disability who I was working to ensure had her civil rights protected.
In the fall of my 3L year, I decided to enroll in the school’s Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic, and I was able to work as a certified student attorney under the Massachusetts student practice rule, Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. I shifted gears a bit and decided to look into the defense side of public interest law. This was my first opportunity to work directly with clients at Greater Boston Legal Services in the CORI & Re-Entry Project. I assisted indigent clients in petitioning to seal their criminal records that were disadvantageous for housing and employment opportunities. Speaking and meeting with clients on a regular basis was a rewarding experience. I also had the chance to represent a client in a petition to seal hearing at the Roxbury District Court. There was nothing like seeing the women’s smile after the judge granted her petition, and hearing her say she felt that I cared and worked so hard to help her so she could better her life for her and her son.
In my last semester of law school, I decided to revert back to my love for government public interest work. I am currently interning at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, with a placement at the Chelsea District Court, and again am working as a certified student attorney under SJC Rule 3:03 as part of the Criminal Procedure II Clinic. I spend all of my clinic hours in court, whether it's assisting one of the assistant district attorneys on a case or standing in on tenders of pleas or bail hearings. I enjoy the unique challenges every day brings, while also gaining the invaluable practical courtroom experience.
My clinical experiences at New England Law, combined with the various public interest–related courses that I was able to take, has only furthered my interest in the public interest field after graduation.
Public interest law, immigration law, international human rights
Jessica Rodenhiser, Class of 2018
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help people. I was born and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts, a poverty-stricken city with a diverse population. Being raised in that environment, surrounded by indigent persons, I found a passion in public service. This continued to shape my experiences even after moving out of Brockton for university. During my undergraduate studies, I found myself consistently questioning the socioeconomic structure of society and how it affected indigent persons. My overarching question was always, “What can I do to make the system better?”
When I began to research law schools, I was looking for hands-on learning experience. I wanted to work with clients as soon as possible to start feeding this dream. As I researched clinical opportunities, I was impressed with how many clinics and externships New England Law | Boston offered. After weighing my options, the community vibe of the school, the programs offered, and the life experiences of the faculty gave me the feeling that this was the right place for me.
In the fall of my second year, I took the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic, and I was placed at the New England Law Clinical Law Office (CLO), the school’s in-house clinic. I didn’t know this placement would change my life. Throughout my first year of law school, I questioned my career path and tried to balance my interest in international law and criminal law. It was not until my first client cried and thanked me that I knew I was hooked to public service. During my time at the CLO, I was under the supervision of Professor Caryn Mitchell-Munevar, who never failed to challenge and motivate me to reach new heights. After this experience I knew I needed to give more.
The CLO gave me the client interview and representation skills to take on my next internship at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) in the Immigration Unit. I felt extremely comfortable my first week knowing I had the client counseling background necessary for this field of law. During the summer I put in over 350 pro bono hours representing indigent clients, applying for U visa, VAWA, asylum, and TPS. I earned the school’s Public Service Transcript Notation, as well as placement on the Supreme Judicial Court’s Pro Bono Honor Roll, as a result of this work. I was then able to keep this placement and receive clinical credit as part of the Immigration Clinic at New England Law. Allowing me to have so much time at the same office allowed me to take on a more demanding workload and get my hands on a variety of cases.
Along with my clinic and internship experiences, I worked as a research assistant for Professor Lisa Laplante and the school’s Center for International Law and Policy. In that position I was able to research the effects global companies have on human rights, and their compliance with international standards. I was able to lead a team of 15 researchers as we were tasked with uncovering the violations and what the companies did to remedy those violations. With this experience I not only discovered my passion for human rights work, but I also strengthened my research, writing, and leadership skills.
My clinical experience, research position, pro bono work, and the faculty at New England Law | Boston gave me the tools needed to succeed post-graduation in public interest work. With all the experience I gained in these positions, I was able to secure a position as an Honors Attorney with the Department of Justice, in a two-year clerkship at the Immigration Court. This will be my first stop on the way to answering the question, “What can I do to make the system better?”
Public interest law, access to justice
Nikia Williams, Class of 2018
In 2015 I moved to Boston in hopes of “fighting the good fight” and becoming an advocate for the large portion of the population that suffer from the various hardships resulting from poverty and other inequities. During my first year of law school, and having no client-counseling skills or any legal experience whatsoever, I became involved in the CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) initiative. As a CORI volunteer I had the pleasure of helping individuals create a fresh start for themselves by sealing their criminal records. This was my first time in my life that I had the chance to connect with a stranger on such a personal level and with such an important legal issue.
My CORI involvement helped ground me as a young attorney in that it continually reminded me of something I have always held to be true: “People are people.” People are people in the sense that despite where life may lead us, we all share the same desires to be accepted and valued in our communities. For many people once they have had contact with the criminal justice system, they are simply deemed “criminals,” and society’s characterization of that person tends to begin and end with the fact that they have a record. While volunteering for the CORI initiative I assisted many individuals in sealing their criminal records so that they could pursue employment opportunities, education, housing, and, most of all, validate their place in society as contributing members as opposed to being viewed as just a criminal. I earned the school’s Public Service Transcript Notation for my volunteer work with the CORI project.
I continued to participate in CORI my second year of law school but I also wanted to broaden my horizons and believed I would be able to do so by learning about family law, which is very much intertwined with criminal law. I enrolled in the Public Interest Seminar and Clinic, performing my clinical work at the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Boston. I was certified under Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03 and was allowed to practice as a student attorney. Working out in the field at the Edward Brooke Courthouse gave me a fuller view of many of the obstacles to accessing justice. There were often many people in need of our legal services but we could only accommodate some of them. The highlight of my semester was when I had the opportunity to stand before a judge and represent a client for the very first time. There is absolutely nothing that compared from the rush I felt when I stood before a judge representing my client’s interest and then the court granting relief in my client’s favor.
Later on that year, I began volunteering for the Center for Law and Social Responsibility’s Jail Lessons Initiative (JLI). As a JLI participant I would go to Nashua Street Jail on a weekly basis and teach Evidence or Criminal Procedure to the residents. I loved the experience so much that I interviewed for the Student Manager position so that I could help expand the program and ensure its longevity at New England Law. During my 3L year, as Student Manager of the Jail Lessons Initiative, I sought to increase student involvement in the program and to have another successful year. There is never a dull moment during any of the lessons, the program is well received by the Nashua residents, and New England Law students have been respected for their dedication and commitment to giving the Nashua residents access to something that allows them to build a positive connection with the criminal justice system.
I am very grateful for the experiences I have had in the public interest sector while at New England Law, and I believe it will make all the difference as I embark on my legal career as a zealous advocate for those who often go unheard.
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