Carolyn Cuteri (Class of 2012)
My first year was filled with essential classes and shaped me into the student that I am today. However, beginning in my second year I knew I was set on a path that I would never forget. First semester of my second year I took Family Law. What was intended as a class to help round out my legal education changed my entire plan. After that class, I was all about Family Law and anything that would help me to learn more about it. Second semester of my second year I enrolled in the school’s Lawyering Process clinic, where I worked as a student lawyer under SJC Rule 3:03 at the in-house clinic at New England Law. I continued to work at the clinic in the summer after my second year of law school, and the experience solidified my choice in practicing Family Law after graduation.
My clients and supervisor in the clinic changed my experience by switching my role from student to student attorney. After I had a taste of speaking with clients and practicing with real clients, I knew going to law school was the right choice for me. My first client taught me more than I can ever thank her for. Her patience with my inexperience, coupled with my desire to research thoroughly to help her work through her divorce, made us a wonderful team. The clinical supervisors both challenged and educated me in my journey. I was also introduced through the clinical program to a wonderful adjunct professor who dedicates part of his practice to pro bono work. It was refreshing to see an attorney who, although he did not practice solely public interest law, still kept a commitment to helping individuals that need aid.
The clinic showed me the importance of public interest law. Being a naïve college student I thought that as I had seen in legal television shows, if you cannot afford an attorney you will be given one. I quickly realized how wrong I was and that an attorney is only given to you in criminal cases where jail time is possible. Working with indigent clients in contested divorces involving custody showed me how important it is to have an attorney. For parents as wonderful as those I had the privilege to work with, a life without their children would be worse than jail. Yet, we still live in a society were only five percent of indigent clients are able to find an attorney. New England Law has shown me the importance of public interest law, and while I do not know where I will be working after graduation I do know that no matter where I am, I will always commit time to public interest in some capacity.
After my summer at the in-house clinic I took two more clinics, both of which allowed me to continue working in the area of Family Law, although in different capacities. I took the Mediation and Dispute Resolution Clinic in the fall of my senior year, working at a collaborative law firm, a relatively new form of practice that emphasizes a collaborative approach over an adversarial one, particularly in areas such as Family Law. For my final semester, I enrolled in the Family Law Clinic and obtained a placement in the Probate and Family Court. I learned a tremendous amount in both placements, and both have strengthened my desire to practice Family Law.
At the end of my third year of law school I received the Law Student Ethics Award from the Association of Corporate Counsel, Northeast Chapter. This award was based on a commitment to ethics in the course of my studies generally, but with a focus on ethics in the context of clinical work.
New England Law is a school that nurtures students in pursuing public interest experiences. I am proud of the clinical program that I was part of and can never thank my supervisors, clients, and the law school enough for helping me to find my future path.