Brenda Adams (Class of 2006)
The moment I realized I wanted to go to law school was when my college professor taught us about Lawrence v. Texas in a course entitled Sex and the Law. I had always wanted my career to be one in which I could help others, but couldn't figure out how to do that. After taking that course I realized what a difference I could make as a lawyer.
I came to law school and immediately began searching around for organizations with which I could volunteer my time. I found the National Lawyers Guild, the first integrated bar association, and spent a lot of time volunteering for them. At one point I recruited 160 of my classmates to join their Street Law Clinic Project. The program trains law students to teach clinics throughout the community that educate community members about their rights in employment law, housing law, fourth amendment law, and civil disobedience.
The summer after my first year I worked for the National Lawyers Guild as the Street Law Clinics Coordinator. I also organized a city-wide campaign to educate T-riders about the Fourth Amendment and a new policy of random searches instituted by the MBTA. My second year I did some public interest work through my clinics. In the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic course I represented indigent clients in family law and disability cases under the student practice rule (SJC Rule 3:03 ). In the Administrative Law Clinic in the spring semester, I clerked for an administrative law judge.
The summer following my second year I was a recipient of the Public Interest Law Association Grant, which gave me the opportunity to work for Neighborhood Legal Services, a nonprofit organization providing free legal services to people facing eviction. This was an amazing experience for me. I spent three days per week in the Northeast Housing Court , working for the Lawyer for the Day program, representing indigent tenants under SJC Rule 3:03 in mediation and in front of the judge. The other two days I spent in the office, doing client intakes, investigating client claims, and conducting our Answer and Discovery clinic to help clients fill out and file the necessary documents for court. I felt so good at the end of the day. I really felt like I was making a difference. These people were facing possible 24 hour evictions, and in the cases where I could not stop them from being evicted, I at least was able to buy them a month or two so they could find a place to live and not be homeless. And our clients were so grateful. They often came in scared and confused. They didn't understand the legal process and they certainly didn't understand their rights. It was unbelievably rewarding to help them, and to know that I did everything I could to stop them from becoming homeless.
My third year I did two more clinics, one in the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General's Office, and the other in the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Boston's public defender office. While working in the former I wrote a disability policy to be incorporated into a final agreement between the AG and the opposing party - a company that had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against a blind man. I also wrote an Amicus Brief to be submitted to the SJC recommending that a decision by a trial judge in favor of two female teachers in an equal pay case be upheld. At CPCS I work one day per week in court arguing on behalf of recent detainees in bail hearings. I also help the staff attorneys with their cases by researching creative arguments to make on behalf of their clients. This is also an incredibly rewarding job.
The time I've spent doing public interest work has made me feel good about my experience in law school. But of course I wish I could have done more. I only hope that in whatever legal career I choose to pursue I can come home at the end of the day feeling like I did everything within my power to help people. Regardless of how much money I make, if I can come home and say, "I helped someone today," then I think I will be a very happy woman.