Brian Cowan (Class of 2009)
I came to law school from a Peace Corps background and with an interest in helping. The volunteer experiences at New England Law | Boston have given me that, as well as ton of experience, learning opportunities, and a much richer resume.
Since October of my first year at New England Law, I have volunteered with Shelter Legal Services at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans. For that first year, I worked with a team of other New England Law students. We met with clients about their cases, presented the information to our supervising attorney, and researched legal issues related to the cases. In my second year I started a project at Shelter to help convicted sex offenders appeal their sex offender classification and correct errors in their criminal records. In my third year, I took over as the student supervisor for the weekly clinics at the New England Shelter and became responsible for supporting and supervising the other student volunteers. I have also continued the sex offender project.
My work at Shelter has been wonderful. It has given me the opportunity to work with a variety of people facing a lot of different issues. For my three years of volunteering, I got a lot of experience working with clients that will be invaluable when I graduate. I learned to manage my own cases, work independently, and developed the confidence that I could do all of that. It has also given me the opportunity to develop relationships with attorneys in the fields where I want to work after graduation.
In addition to my work at Shelter, I also took the Lawyering Process Clinic and worked at New England Law’s in-house clinic my second year. At the in-house clinic, I represented several women seeking divorce and child support modifications. I got to go to court and negotiate with opposing counsel, draft discovery requests, and work closely with the clients. Those cases were my cases, which was a great learning experience, because it required managing the cases and answering to the clients. As part of this experience I was able to go to court and negotiate one-on-one with opposing counsel to resolve one of my cases, which, while nerve-racking, was a great experience.
My final experiences were during the summers of my first and second years of law school. During my first year I volunteered at the New Hampshire Public Defender’s office in Nashua, NH (NHPD). At NHPD, I got to meet with clients ranging form juveniles charged with car theft to adults charged with multiple counts of rape. It was a unique chance to meet and get to know some of these people. During that summer, I also helped investigate cases, prep for trial, and interview witnesses. At NHPD I was also given one case that was mine to decide what to file and to write anything we did file. I got to design the strategy of the case and work with the client and supervisor making sure to represent the client’s interests.
During my second summer I volunteered with the Roxbury (MA) Defender’s Unit of the Committee for Public Counsel (RDU). At RDU, I operated as a student attorney and argued bail daily. RDU only handles major felonies, so my clients were charged with crimes such as drug distribution and attempted murder. I also assisted in a trial, did investigations, and researched and wrote a variety of motions.
My public defender experiences allowed me to go to court and represent people whose freedom was literally on the line. I got to learn from watching other attorneys and then actually argue in court when it mattered, getting feedback both from how the case turned out and from my supervising attorneys. They were also opportunities to work in environments where there are heavy caseloads and lots of pressure because of the amount the clients had riding on each case.
I have been fortunate at New England Law to have had many opportunities to work with public interest groups. Those experiences have taught me a tremendous amount, and given me many opportunities to perform in court. They have also taught me the joy of the work and helped me build connections with different attorneys. Finally, those experiences have given me a track record of legal work.