Benjamin Young Jones (Class of 2013)
After an interesting post from a Public Interest Law Association (PILA) e-mail caught my eye, I applied to be a volunteer with Shelter Legal Services (Shelter). It was at Shelter that I realized tiny nonprofits can thrive, found a mentor, learned about veterans’ law, and developed the confidence that I could make an impact and a living in public interest law. Following my 1L year, I spent the summer full-time with Shelter, visiting the New England Center for Homeless Veterans and the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home every week to hold free legal clinics for veterans.
Thanks to the wonderful clinical program here, the first month of 2L was much different. I was in the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic. It was through this seminar that I connected with Professor Engler, the head of the clinical program. Meeting Prof. Engler was key for me, as he provided strong encouragement for and sage advice in the public interest arena. One of his suggestions was to experience six different clinical/internship opportunities while in law school. For the clinical piece of the class, I was in the Elder, Health, and Disability Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), where I was certified as a student attorney under SJC Rule 3:03, the student practice rule. It was there that I had my first chance to serve as lead counsel at a legal hearing. Just days before Christmas, I successfully had a $98k overpayment removed from my client’s Social Security account in front of an administrative law judge – it was a thrill.
Throughout my 2L year, I continued to volunteer with Shelter on Wednesday nights, maintaining my connection with the organization and the clients. Additionally, I was president of the Immigration Law Association during 2L. In the spring semester of 2L, I joined the CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) Initiative, which was in its first year of creation. This group, a project of the Center for Law and Social Responsibility, was created to provide low-income clients with aid in sealing their CORI (Massachusetts’s criminal record system) and give students the opportunity to do practical legal work in the public interest. I would later become the student manager of the group in my 3L year, expanding both the client and student volunteer base.
The summer after my 2L year was spent with the New Hampshire Public Defender in its Nashua office. It was fulfilling to be in front of the district judges, representing my clients and applying many of my new skills and knowledge from school. Over the summer, I was appointed to the National Advisory Committee of Equal Justice Works as one of about a dozen students and professionals selected from law schools across the country, providing guidance and advice to this public interest law promoting organization.
Upon my return to school in the fall of 3L, I participated in the Honors Judicial Clerkship Program – interning with the Honorable Roberto Ronquillo, Jr., first justice, Boston Municipal Court. It was a unique perspective to see the process through the judge’s eyes and have full-access to an otherwise inaccessible position. Now, as a graduating spring-semester 3L, I am in my final clinic as an intern at the Roxbury Defenders’ office, a superior court division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, enjoying every moment of my waning time in law school. I recommend everyone aim for experiencing six different clinical/internship opportunities, as it has allowed me to see the wide range of possibilities within the public interest law field.