Peter Towne (Class of 2009)
I came to New England Law | Boston knowing that I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities to get involved with public interest work. In fact, these opportunities, through the clinics and other law centers, were a major factor in my decision to attend New England Law.
In the fall of my 2L year of law school, I took the Public Interest Law Clinic and Seminar. I was able to obtain an outside placement through the clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). I worked in the Health and Disability Law Department of GBLS and was given the opportunity to work on the Medicare Advocacy Project (MAP). I was given a list of my own clients and cases and within a week or two was handling multitude of tasks involved with each one, under the supervision of the unit’s managing attorney.
I was responsible for writing a number of client letters, filing appeals on behalf of clients with Medicare and its administrative courts, and researching different areas of administrative law and health law. Most importantly though, I spent most of my time on the phone with clients counseling them regarding the complex Medicare regulations. I gained a tremendous amount from the client contact alone and it taught me a number of important aspects of the practice of law. I learned how to tell clients that, although their situation is certainly less than ideal, there is not really anything you can do to help them. It is not the easiest task, but a crucial one. The seminar was also an important aspect of the clinic and the learning process. Through the classroom discussion and research paper I was able to bring the big picture of public interest law into perspective and more fully understand and appreciate its important place in the legal world.
During the summer after my second year of law school I worked with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee. This organization is funded by the state to work with those who have mental health issues and counsel them through their legal problems. This was again a very valuable experience for many of the same reasons. I was given a number of cases to handle on my own, and was also given the opportunity to participate in the intake process. I was able to perform the initial client interview and was responsible for the evaluation of the client’s case as it came into the office. Through the office’s many specialties, I was also given the opportunity to see many different areas of law practice, from family law and employment law to drafting legislation and lobbying at the statehouse.
Finally, during my last semester of law school I worked in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office through the Criminal Procedure II Clinic. This experience was tremendous for me and really helped round out the skills I have gained throughout the clinical experience. One of the main reasons for this is the frequency with which I was able to be in the courtroom and stand up in front of a judge. I was placed in the DA’s office in the Roxbury District Court, which is one of the busiest in Suffolk County. My supervisor was very eager to get me into the courtroom every chance he got and within weeks of starting the clinic I was handling my own cases and taking part in every step of the prosecution process, from arraignment to trial.
Although actually getting to do a trial of your own is hard to come by, due to the small number of cases that actually make it to trial, by the end of the clinic I was in front of a judge every day I went into work. Another great experience I drew from the clinic was the opportunity to work with a number of defense attorneys representing their clients. One of the most important tasks a prosecutor performs is negotiation and communication with opposing counsel. Whether it is negotiating a plea or communicating with them about discovery, it was an amazing opportunity to fully experience the job on a day-to-day basis (though I was only there a few days a week!).
Overall the experiences I had with the clinics and public interest work I have done in law school were extremely positive. I was able to take the knowledge I have gained in the classroom and apply it practically on the job and out in the field. I am more than satisfied with the opportunities I have had during my law school career to go out into practice and learn the law from a hands-on perspective. I truly feel that the public interest work I have done here has given me the tools I need to be confident in saying that I feel prepared and ready to practice law as soon as I graduate and pass the bar.