Heather Westerfield (Class of 2009)
I had a pretty good idea of what kind of law I did not want to practice after my first year of law school: anything that had to do with Property or Contracts. But as my second year approached I was very excited to embrace the opportunity my school had to offer through the clinical programs. During my first semester I took the Family Law course and found it to be very interesting. I was able to put what I had read in my casebook to practical use during the spring semester by enrolling in the Family Law Clinic.
With a wealth of possibilities it was difficult to choose just what placement I would apply for. The clinic had placements in solo practice, working with children, victims of domestic violence, and the New England Law Clinical Law Office. I chose the New England Law Clinical Law Office out of sheer convenience, as it was very close to school and my apartment. I had no idea how much knowledge and experience lay in my future.
I was greeted by four brilliant attorneys with what seemed like a million years of experience between them. I am not implying that they were old, only that their practice comes as second nature, and that they were more than willing to impart everything they know through their experiences. It’s a breath of fresh air to work with practicing attorneys who are also teachers. If you have ever worked in real-world legal setting you may know what I mean (You know those supervisors that don’t have much time for questions). At the clinic, time is spent teaching you to be a better attorney, without frustration and questions are explained so that work can continue.
I was able to work with four clients during the semester. I started at the very beginning of the process by meeting my clients, filing their paperwork, and seeing them through the process of divorce. Working with indigent clients can be frustrating, but also rewarding as you are really able to make a large difference in their lives. In many cases, you are also faced with a change in your client’s children’s lives as well. I was able to work on visitation and a child custody modification as well. I had some very interesting cases, and reveled in the ability to share my experiences with my fellow colleagues and supervisors.
In fact, I enjoyed my experience there so much that I applied for a summer position, and was able to stay with my clients through the summer months. If I would give one bit of advice to any up and coming law student it would be this: take advantage of this unique and very fulfilling opportunity.
I am now in my final year of law school, and very much ready to put what I have learned to good use. I plan on pursuing a career in Family Law and Public Interest. My time at New England and my time spent in its clinical education have made this one of the easiest and most exciting decisions of my life.