Geoff Gillespie (Class of 2009)
I have always preferred doing practical work to doing academic work. That's why I was drawn to New England's clinical program when I was applying to law school, and that's why I started clinical work as soon as I could, in my second year fall.
In the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic, I worked for the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) on Chauncy Street in Boston. I immediately was given my own clients whose cases I handled from intake to conclusion. I did unemployment benefits cases, which are like mini-trials in an administrative hearing. I helped clients prevent foreclosures on their houses, and assisted others in resolving landlord-tenant problems, often with Boston Public Housing. I also was deeply involved in a consumer law project to reform the process of applying protections and discounts in utilities service to low-income consumers. I was also involved with cases in social security and disability benefits, paternity, child support, and family law.
The work I did at VLP was not only terrific experience, but was incredibly fulfilling. On the experience side, I was given remarkable autonomy and great responsibility over my clients' cases, though of course excellent support was always available from my wonderful supervisor and the terrific staff attorneys. As far as personal fulfillment, every day I knew that I was helping people who really needed it. I know that I made a difference for my clients and their families, and also contributed in my own small way to VLP's mission to improve our world by providing legal services to those most in need.
My clinic experience accrued benefits far beyond my expectations. Out of my clinic I ended up with a paid job for the following semester (a stroke of luck in part, and a substantial increase in work load, but a terrific outcome nonetheless). Out of my clinical and ensuing employment, I then succeeded in being accepted to my long-held dream job in the Navy JAG Corps, resting on the legal experience I'd gained and the support of my supervisor. For me, my clinic at New England was one of the finest personal and professional experiences I've ever had, and has turned out to be one of the single most valuable pieces of my law school education, both in terms of personal development and in securing a job.
I've spent my third year as a visiting student at California Western School of Law in San Diego, where I worked as a part-time paralegal for the Naval Legal Service Office on the Navy base. After taking the Massachusetts bar, I'll start my training to be an officer in the JAG Corps, and expect to start my first tour on active duty as a Navy lawyer around March 2010. Like most JAGs, in my career I expect to do a mix of legal assistance, criminal defense, criminal prosecution, naval operational law, naval command advocacy, and potentially environmental and admiralty law, among other things.