Laura Donohue (Class of 2012)
Although it was hard to find time during my first year to exercise my interest in Immigration Law, in the second semester of my 1L year I helped with an asylum case through the Immigration Law Project of the Center for Law and Social Responsibility. Because I hadn’t yet taken a class on Immigration Law I was assigned to research past and current country conditions to help in proving our client’s claim. This was my first experience working on an asylum case and it was an amazing hands-on learning process. It was great to see the materials I had found, referenced in the lead attorney’s memorandum to the asylum office, which allowed our client to win her claim!
During the summer after my 1L year I worked in the Immigration Unit at Legal Assistance Corporation of Massachusetts in Worcester. I had applied for and received a Public Interest Law Association Public Interest Grant, so my work that summer was funded. In that position I worked with immigrants applying for Temporary Protected Status, permanent residency, and for protection under the Violence Against Women Act. I was able to sit in on interviews at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Office and at hearings at the Boston Immigration Court, which allowed me become familiar with the judges at the court and how different types of hearings proceed there.
I enrolled in the Immigration Law Clinic in the fall of my 2L year and was lucky enough to end up with a placement at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). In that position, I handled my own asylum case from start to finish. I met with my client throughout the semester to collect facts to write his affidavit, and compiled country conditions information and all supplemental information necessary to corroborate and support his claim for asylum. The culminating experience was, of course, attending the interview at the asylum office. I found out seven months after that interview that my client had been granted asylum. Because of this clinic, I feel that I have the fundamental skills necessary to represent asylum seekers once I start working after graduation.
By spring semester of my 2L year, I decided I should get a different kind of legal experience on my résumé. I took the Lawyering Process Clinic and was placed in the Health and Disability Unit at GBLS. This opportunity provided me with insight into Social Security and Medicare issues. I worked closely with a number of clients to prepare them for hearings before an administrative law judge or to appeal a denial of Medicare coverage. I was also lucky enough to obtain a judicial clerkship at the Boston Immigration Court during the summer after my 2L year. This invaluable experience enabled me to work with judges who are experts in their field. My legal research and writing skills increased tenfold that summer!
I continued on the clerkship path in the first semester of my 3L year, working at the Suffolk Superior Court. This was an amazing opportunity to see civil and criminal procedure in action in the courtroom. I developed a close relationship with the judge I clerked for and was exposed to a number of areas of law I had not had a chance to learn about in a practical or classroom setting.
I thought working at a law firm would be an ideal way for me to end my law school career. I knew that I wanted to work at an immigration law firm and so I got in touch with an alumna who was an associate in a Boston based immigration law firm. She brought me on as an intern and allowed me to draft bond reconsideration motions, asylum affidavits, and briefs to the board of immigration appeals, and to observe many hearings that she participated in. I obtained credit for this work through my third clinic, the Administrative Law Clinic. In sum, each practical experience that I had in law school has prepared me for work after graduation. I feel that I have the equivalent of two years’ of experience gained from New England Law’s clinics and volunteer opportunities.