Pro Bono Board 2013-2014
I decided to start doing pro bono work because I wanted to immediately put into practice some of the skills I had developed during my first year of law school, and help members of my community while doing so. I also hope to hone skills related to working directly with clients. I have been fortunate in getting involved with a lot of wonderful projects during my first year, including the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, Jewish Family Services, the Human Trafficking Database Project, the Public Benefits Advocacy Project (PBAP), the Freedom House Pro Bono Project, and a LawBreaks trip to New Orleans, where I and other Michigan students assisted the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center in creating a statewide database of capital cases. Most of the projects I've chosen to do have a heavy immigration focus because that's the area of law I hope to practice after I graduate, but I've tried to diversify my experience a bit through both PBAP and the Lawbreaks trip, which were both fantastic.
Pro bono is an incredible way to enhance your law school experience. First off, it simply feels great to help others, and is a wonderful way to break up the occasional monotony of casebooks and statutory supplements. But even more importantly, it adds a hands-on element to one's education that is simply impossible to get in the classroom. My primary involvement is with Street Law; I serve on the executive board and as a site leader. I am drawn to Street Law's core focus of sharing this amazing legal education I'm privileged to receive here at Michigan with those that don't have access to this sort of information, from children in low-income community centers, to the elderly, to prisoners. I've also been involved with the Family Law Project and Michigan Unemployment Insurance Project, both of which are great ways to develop skills in working with clients, engaging with various local agencies, and generally getting a feel for how state law works in practice.
Since starting law school, I have been volunteering with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center in Ann Arbor. I got involved with the center because I'm interested in immigration law and wanted to get some real experience as soon as possible. I also did pro bono work during the Lawbreaks spring trip to Arizona, again focused on immigration. I'll also be working on immigration issues this summer at the Legal Aid Society's Immigration Law Unit in New York; I'm hoping to work with youth or immigrants caught in the criminal justice system. I joined the Pro Bono Board and like pro bono work in general because I plan to go into public-interest work after law school. I came to law school to affect social change and help other people.
I'm originally from New York City, where I worked for two years as a paralegal at the Center for Family Representation before law school. In my first year at Michigan, I was involved in pro bono work as a student attorney for the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Project. Working with clients on their unemployment benefit denial claims was extremely rewarding. I also volunteered during my first semester with Street Law's Huron Valley Prison Project, presenting on legal research and writing skills to incarcerated women. This summer, I am working in the Special Litigation Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group and hope to learn much more about impact litigation on a range of topics that really interest me. I'm looking forward to participating in more pro bono projects during law school and after graduating.
I am thrilled to be on the Pro Bono Board, as I believe that pro bono opportunities give law students valuable practical experience by helping them realize the rewarding nature of the legal profession. I am currently involved in the Human Trafficking Database, because I am interested in international security and human rights policy. I am also serving as the Public Relations Chair for Future Advocates in Training (FAIT). I was an active member of U-M's Policy Debate team and worked with a nonprofit organization that helped promote debate in high schools in downtown Detroit. FAIT is a great way for me to use the skills I learned from debate, help high school students, and have fun.
I've dabbled in a few pro bono projects while at Michigan Law, but most of my time has been dedicated to the Mississippi Center for Justice Project (MCJ)—a partnership between a small group of students at the Law School and an MLaw alum at MCJ's headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi. MCJ engages with the issues that matter most to me and on which I hope to work professionally—racial justice, consumer protection, and poverty law—but allows me to approach them from a very different angle. Specifically, MCJ involves me in policy advocacy and impact litigation, rather than direct civil legal services to the poor. What I love about MLaw's pro bono program is that it brings together students from diverse backgrounds, with diverse career goals, who are willing and eager to dedicate some of their scarce time to a public-interest cause or community in need. I know that as a future public-interest attorney, the organizations I work for will more than likely depend upon the generosity of private-sector lawyers to serve their clients and pursue their organizational goals. I am honored to be able to engage in that kind of collaboration as a student.
At Michigan, I've done pro bono research with Law Students for Reproductive Justice. Additionally, I spent my winter break in New Orleans volunteering with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. I enjoy doing pro bono work because it allows me to engage with issues about which I am passionate. It was especially great to do this kind of work as a 1L because it helped remind me why I came to law school in the first place.
I do pro bono work in order to give back to the community and remind myself why I came to law school. Working with the Human Trafficking Law Project Database and the Family Law Project has been tremendously gratifying. I have been able to improve my communication, writing, and research skills through these projects. After graduating from law school, I hope to help combat human trafficking in a government or public-interest setting. The information that I'm learning through my pro bono work will be invaluable to me in the future. I'm looking forward to becoming involved in even more pro bono projects in the upcoming years.
I joined the Pro Bono Board to support the thriving pro bono community at Michigan Law. Pro bono is really a win-win. You are helping someone while sharpening your legal skills, and working on a project that is meaningful to you. I have worked with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Project for almost a year. I was attracted to this project because of the opportunities for direct client interaction and the freedom that the project grants to student attorneys. Since joining the project I have written briefs for country circuit courts, filled documents for clients, counseled clients, and represented them at hearings with administrative law judges. After graduation, I would love to work at a firm in either Pittsburgh or Columbus doing litigation work and lots of pro bono.
Over the summer I am working with Lawndale Christian Legal Center (LCLC) in the North Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago's westside. LCLC provides holistic services (legal and social) to youth 24 and under who are facing criminal charges. The reason I am at LCLC this summer is to learn about and view firsthand a legal organization that works closely with a relatively small, urban neighborhood. I'm interested in being involved in similar issues after graduation, working with under-resourced urban populations to help provide some of the legal services that are in such short supply in places like North Lawndale. I'm unsure as yet whether that will be through may primary employment or through pro bono work, but both options provide a way to use my legal education to make an impact in people's lives who might not otherwise get the opportunity to receive such legal services. The kinds of projects I'm looking for during my time as a student are in the same vein—anything related to legal services for urban populations. In addition to LCLC, I worked with the Fair Housing Center of Metro Detroit during my 1L year.