Stephanie Sprague (Class of 2006)
I decided I wanted to be a lawyer when I was nine years old. My motivation for that career choice? Money. I wanted to be rich, and I didn’t like blood, so doctor was out, and lawyer it was. In college my eyes were opened to the realities of the nation: that socio-economic status determines a lot about your life, the opportunities available, and sometimes access to justice. I realized the pursuit of all things material really wasn’t where my heart and passion was. I discovered a new, more important use for lawyers in society, to bring access to the justice system to lower income people. So I began my law school search with that in mind, with an interest in a public interest law career. I came across a small, local law school, New England School of Law. New England School of Law sent me information regarding a public interest focus in legal education, pointed me to the right path to fulfill my career goals early on.
At New England I participated in the Public Interest Seminar and Clinic the first semester of my second year. In many aspects this was my first exposure to the practice, not merely the study, of law in the pursuit of the public interest. I represented clients in family court and before the Department of Unemployment. I enjoyed the work and felt that, even as a student, I really made a difference in some people’s lives. The next summer I worked at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and had my own case load of twenty-three clients, mostly in family law and housing. The work was challenging, legally and emotionally, but at the end of each day I was satisfied with the work I had done to help people in my community gain access to the justice system, guide them through the process and obtain the results that in some way changed their lives for the better. Through my membership in the National Lawyers Guild I have help coordinate training sessions at New England School of Law in the Guild’s Street Law Clinics. The Clinics teach law students the basics of several areas of law, like tenant’s rights, worker’s rights, and stops and searches by the police. The trained students then help lead clinics in the local areas teaching community members (mostly elderly and low income who might not have access to lawyers or the legal system) what their rights are regarding these laws. The Street Law Clinics are a great way of learning new areas of law outside the classroom setting, and then providing this important information directly to community members with little access to legal assistance.
There are so many ways to get involved in public interest work at NESL, whether it is through the clinical programs, volunteering, summer work, or student groups. I feel confident about the foundation in public interest law I have received in law school, and plan to continue in the field throughout my career.