Coming into law school I had very little idea about the area(s) of law in which I wanted to gain experience during my time as a law student, let alone what area in which I would want to practice upon graduation. As first year progressed, I realized that it is very hard to get a feel for whether you like a particular field of law simply from taking a class. As a result I began planning my summer employment as well as my fall class load with an eye toward gaining as much practical, working experience as possible during my time at New England Law | Boston. The only thing that I knew for sure was how imperative it was to end up in an area of law that I would enjoy working in. It was at this point that I grasped how lucky I was to have the clinical opportunities available to me at the start of 2L year.
During the fall semester of my 2L year I enrolled in the Public Interest Clinic and Seminar and was placed at the Church Street Legal Services Office (CLO). I chose to enroll in this clinic because at the time I believed that I had an interest in doing family law work. During my semester at the CLO I represented three separate clients; two in family law and one Social Security disability income appeal. Each of these clients offered a very unique glimpse into the responsibilities entailed in client representation. For one client I appeared two separate times at Suffolk Family Court for motions hearings, both times argued by me personally. For another I worked directly with opposing counsel in agreeing upon the proper terms for settlement of our respective clients' amicable divorce. The third client had me arguing in front of an administrative law judge at the Social Security Administration for issuance of disability benefits. During this hearing, I was accompanied by my supervisor, but I personally gave a direct examination of my client and was able to cross examine both the medical and vocational experts called in the hearing on behalf of the SSA.
In addition to my semester enrolled in the clinic, I was offered the opportunity to work at the CLO for the 2008 summer. There were four student attorneys who worked in the office during the summer and we each played integral roles in managing the entire caseload of the office. The opportunity to manage such a large caseload and work with such a close group was an experience I will forever cherish. One of the main reasons behind my accepting summer employment with the CLO was a result of the relationships that I formed with the staff during my time enrolled in the clinic. The four staff attorneys (and the wonderful office manager, Maria Chang) working at the CLO are second to none. While in their efforts to teach you to become a lawyer they will almost never give you a direct answer, they will point you in the proper direction and ensure that the correct result is achieved. Every day you are challenged to learn and make the appropriate decision, all the while gaining confidence in your abilities.
The final learning experience that I took from my time with the CLO is that I no longer have an interest in family law. I will always have a desire to help the indigent and give my time toward the betterment of society, but in the end I found that my interests will be best fulfilled in another area of the law. Without my time at the clinic I would not have been able to make such an informed decision about the path that was best for me upon graduation. Law school is a wonderful experience but classes alone do not teach you how to be a lawyer. The clinical programs offered at New England Law will. I am certainly happy that I took full advantage of them.