Erin Brown (Class of 2009)
New England Law | Boston not only encourages but also provides unique and challenging public interest law opportunities for students interested in a variety of different practice areas.
My first experience doing public interest legal work at New England Law was groundbreaking. As a 2L, I participated in the Immigration Project, a component of the Center for Law and Social Responsibility, by helping write an amicus brief for the Matter of A-T. This case involved a 28 year-old woman seeking asylum on the grounds of future fear of persecution; A-T had already undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in Mali, and feared for her life if she were forced to return.
Along with Professor Dina Haynes and five other student volunteers, we contested the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) decision from a medical perspective, claiming that the “severed limb” analogy used by the immigration judge and BIA was flawed. We met with prominent area medical professionals, including doctors and psychologists from the Boston Medical Center and the Boston University Refugee Project, to research the arguments and write the amicus brief. Our efforts met with success when the attorney general vacated and remanded the BIA decision, creating new law that could effectively permit all women, both those who fear undergoing FGM and those who have already suffered it, to seek asylum in the U.S.
During the first semester of my 3L year, I took the Public Interest Clinical and Seminar. I was placed at the Church Street Clinical Law Office (CLO), which is known for its quality and breadth of legal experience. At the CLO, I worked on divorce cases, child visitation and custody issues, social security benefits, as well as an unemployment benefits case. Because clinic students are 3:03 certified, I was able to represent clients at administrative hearings. The CLO is the kind of environment where independence is encouraged, but teamwork is essential. Clinics help students apply legal theory, but also provide the opportunity for students to see beyond the legal issues to the people they involve.