Martha Drane (Class of 2010)
With New England Law’s close proximity to a Boston elementary school, I found time in between classes to work as an afterschool teacher and later volunteered in the America Reads Program. I supervised children ages five and six, helped them with daily homework, and organized games and social activities. I helped children learn how to read, especially when English was not their first language. This experience reminded me why I enrolled in law school; I wanted to work closely with and assist vulnerable individuals, and I hoped to pursue this goal in the public interest field.
I was excited to intern at the Medical Legal Partnership | Boston (MLP | Boston) after completing my first year here. I managed my own caseload and facilitated the application process of food stamps and cash assistance for low-income women with children. I conducted an extensive interview with a client and prepared a pro bono memorandum referral concerning the client’s eligibility under the Violence Against Women Act. After a daunting year filled with contracts, property, and civil procedure, I was reintroduced to a vulnerable population and witnessed the damage caused by unmet legal needs; this fueled my passion and desire to continue in this field.
I enrolled in the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic at New England and fulfilled my fifteen-hour weekly work requirement at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). This took place in the Family Law Unit as a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03 student attorney. I conducted client intakes for the entire unit and specifically worked in the Divorce Work Group; I assisted low-income women victims of domestic violence obtain divorces from their abusers.
I had such a great experience in this clinic and immediately decided to enroll in the family law clinic the following semester. I was placed at Casa Myrna Vazquez (CMV), an organization that provides free legal services to victims of domestic violence. At both GBLS and CMV, I was surrounded by amazing, experienced, and passionate attorneys. The experience I gained from such placements helped tremendously when I was a student attorney and responsible for my own caseload at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) the following summer. At HLAB I prepared and regularly argued motions at the Middlesex County courthouse regarding family law issues, and I advocated for and represented clients at unemployment and social security hearings.
The summer jobs I held did not pay and students were encouraged to find outside funding. In order to pursue such positions, I applied for grants—specifically New England Law’s Public Interest Law Association grant and the Massachusetts Bar Foundation Fellow grant—and was fortunate to receive both, which provided funding for my summer positions at MLP | Boston and HLAB. I only knew about the MBF grant because my supervisor from CMV informed me of the opportunity. This is simply one example of how my supervisors from the various positions have been extremely helpful. I have kept in touch with past supervisors, meeting for coffee often, and the advice they have provided has been invaluable.
After participating in several of the clinics offered at New England Law, I explored other options and ways in which I could pursue public interest related work. I became more involved with New England Law’s Center of Law and Social Responsibility (CLSR), specifically the Criminal Justice Project. I helped prepare an amicus brief to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court concerning an issue of suggestive identification procedure in a criminal case. I then helped prepare research for a seminar on Judicial and Legal Ethics attended by Afghan defense lawyers. Such experiences allowed me to develop my research and writing skills beyond what I learned in the classroom, and I was able to do it in an area of law I love—public interest.
I am grateful that New England Law’s professors encouraged and welcomed enrollment in clinics and participation in the CLSR. The experience, skill, and passion I gained and developed from each internship, job, and research opportunity advanced my commitment to the public interest field and affirmed my decision to attend law school—I hope to apply and execute such knowledge and experience in a public interest legal career. (March, 2010)