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Lauren Vitale (Class of 2009)

Day Division

As clichéd as it sounds, I decided to pursue a career in law because I wanted to make a difference, and I would highly recommend New England Law | Boston for the extensive legal and public interest skills I gained in this regard. While any law school can teach you the law, New England Law is unique in that the combination of faculty, clinical programs, and student organizations offers an environment with a heavy emphasis on not only learning the law, but also learning how to practice it. 

While the academics New England Law provided were very strong, it was through practical legal experience, including my participation in the clinical programs, that I truly realized how a passion for the law and serving the public interest could be applied to a legal career. With the support and encouragement of faculty, such as Professor Engler and Associate Dean Greenburg, I began gaining legal experience through volunteer positions with The Home for Little Wanderers, a private child and family welfare agency, the Suffolk County Probate and Family Court Registry, the Superior Court of Suffolk County and Middlesex County, the Walk to the Hill for Legal Aid, and the Elder Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), a local organization that provides free legal services to low income members of the community.

Prior to law school, I had volunteered with the Boston Living Center, a support organization for those affected by HIV/AIDS; Meals on Wheels, where I delivered meals to homebound elders; and the Guide Dog Foundation, where I raised and trained guide dogs.  I also worked in a range of constituent advocacy positions, including one in Hillary Clinton’s Manhattan Office during her term as senator.  Beginning my legal career with volunteer legal positions helped me understand how, even in the first or second year of law school, legal skills can be applied to provide much needed assistance to underrepresented members of the community.

However, it was my participation in the clinical program that truly provided a turning point for me. When I enrolled in the Family Law Clinic I was placed in the Family Law Unit of GBLS. Under the expert supervision of Attorney Kelly Leighton, an extremely talented legal advocate, I gained invaluable experience representing low income clients, primarily victims of domestic violence, in a number of contested and uncontested divorces and other family law matters. Representing my clients in court in a number of hearings and motions, advocating on their behalf, and having the benefit of Attorney Leighton’s guidance helped me gain confidence and experience while cementing my commitment to serving the public interest. I was named a Brown Rudnick Fellow for my work in the Family Law Unit, and I enjoyed the experience so much that I stayed on for an extra year after the clinic ended.

I followed up the Family Law Clinic with the Administrative Law Clinic, where I was placed at the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), a Massachusetts agency, and the Lawyering Process Clinic, for which I am currently working in the New England Law in-house office. At DCHD, I worked with Attorney Christine A. McClave, an accomplished New England Law alumna, to review evidence and draft decisions on behalf of the agency in tenant appeals of Section 8 terminations. In addition to providing useful familiarity with the administrative process, participation in this clinic also allowed me to work closely with Attorney McClave, who provided valuable mentorship and advice.

In my current placement in the New England Law in-house office, I’m representing clients in Social Security appeals and a heavily contested divorce that is scheduled for trial. Working closely with my skilled clinic supervisor, Attorney Ilene Klein, I’ve benefited from her extensive professional skills and experience with these issues and augmented my legal education through intense participation in the case and preparation for the contested trial, a valuable opportunity that any law student would be lucky to have.

The opportunity to represent clients in the clinics, while also having the benefit of my supervisors’ guidance, is one of the many reasons why I believe the clinical program is truly invaluable and a New England Law legal education is so worthwhile. In addition to the practical legal skills and experience I gained from the clinics, I have also been placed on the New England Law Public Service Honor Roll and was awarded the 2009 Law Student Ethics Award by the Association of Corporate Counsel for my work in the clinics. I’m also extremely honored to have recently been published in the Massachusetts Family Law Journal for a paper I wrote in a New England Law seminar on the civil right to counsel. Overall, I can’t stress enough how valuable and wonderful an opportunity it is to enter the field with legal experience already under your belt, and for these reasons, I would strongly encourage any prospective law student to attend New England Law.

I’m also currently serving as a Law Clerk at DiPiano Godson, LLP, a local law firm, and at Shelter Legal Services (SLS), a legal services organization that provides free legal aid to homeless and extremely low income members of the community.  At DiPiano Godson, LLP, I handle a wide range of tasks and work with New England alumnae Calvin Heinle, Esq. and John DiPiano, Esq. in a variety of contested cases.  At SLS, I work with New England Law alumnae Sarah Roxburgh, Esq. and Lisa LaFera, Esq. on family law matters, small claims cases, bankruptcy petitions, Social Security appeals, and a number of tax, debtor’s rights, and insurance matters.  This combination of experiences has allowed me to truly understand how the skills I’ve gained can be applied to make significant contributions in the area of public interest law. 

Finally, New England Law also offers a range of active student organizations that augment the public interest experience. During my time at New England Law, I served on the Public Interest Law Association Auction Committee and on the Executive Board of the law school's chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, including a term as co-President and co-Chair for the annual panel discussions, which featured Justice Cordy of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Attorney Triantafillou from Adoption of Tammy, and Judge Hanlon, First Justice of the Dorchester District Court. As co-president, I also coordinated “Street Law Clinics,” where attorneys trained and qualified New England Law students to conduct workshops to inform the public of their rights.

Overall, I’m extremely grateful for the enhanced legal skills, confidence, and motivation which my New England Law education provided, and would not have attained them without the support and encouragement of the faculty, the members of the CLSR, my clinic supervisors, and alumnae.  I look forward to continuing my legal career and contributing to public interest causes.

(April 2009)