Anne Mitchell (Class of 2008)
Unlike most of my colleagues, I chose New England School of Law because it offered a Special Part-Time Evening Program. As a single mother with full custody of two daughters, I had to work full-time to pay for their school tuition, health care, sports and I-Pods.
Similar to a many of my colleagues, I was actively involved within my community prior to law school. I worked on numerous State Representative, State Senate and Gubernatorial campaigns. I was a Town Meeting Representative for my precinct. I was an active member of the town's Democratic Committee, assisted as the Scholarship Chair. I voted as a Delegate in two state Democratic Conventions. I was very active with my parish and served on the Parish Council for several years and volunteered for countless hours for the affiliate grammar school that my girls attended. My daughters joined me in most of these community volunteer activities. They understood, and agreed with, the idea of giving back, and being actively involved in positive change.
My initial decision to attend law school was to advocate for the elderly legislatively. I wanted to be a part of the legislative process to protect the vulnerable, friendless elderly who were losing life-time earnings, retirement and medical benefits. I believed that I could better serve this population by being their voice in the legislative bureaucracy. I soon learned that my idealistic goals were too limited. Networking with a diversified student body, and encouraged by an accessible and supportive faculty and administration, I began to see beyond the walls of Stuart Street and Beacon Hill. Although a serious illness my first year of law school forced me to reevaluate my course load and hours volunteering as a Student Bar Representative while working full-time and juggling single parenthood, the flexibility of the Special Part-Time Evening Program allowed me to pursue my JD in six years. It was not until my second lay-off preceding my sixth year that I truly gained the opportunity to experience legal advocacy outside of the casebooks.
I reasoned that the Public Interest Law Clinic in the fall of my last year was worth every hour I was not getting paid, as the experience was priceless. That course allowed me to study Public Interest Law in the weekly seminar, while at the same time work as a student attorney at the school's in-house clinic in the Church Street building. The supervising attorneys/professors at the Church Street clinic were committed to mentoring each of the Student Attorneys under the SJC 3:03, the student practice rule. We were no longer students behind a desk, but part of a collaborative team offering legal services to indigent clients that depended on our knowledge and commitment. Beyond the lively discussions and timely readings of the seminar requirement, the clinic portion allowed me the opportunity to represent a client in a child custody and visitation hearing where domestic violence was the underlying factor; file motions for child support modifications; secure a TIN for a special needs trust and counsel the trustee and beneficiary on the legal use of the available funds of the trust; counsel and represent a client in an Unemployment Hearing; support a client at a GAL counseling session; witness a heavily contested child custody trial and shadow a supervising attorney as she provided Lawyer for the Day services. I was accountable for all client interviews, agency and court negotiations, case file documentation, and timely court filings.
My final semester I chose the Lawyering Process Clinic and requested that I be placed at the Greater Boston Legal Services Elder Unit. Although a completely different experience and style of mentoring, this internship provided the opportunity to interview and counsel elder indigent clients in cases involving child support arrearage; private housing evictions; emergency senior housing and Social Security garnishment issues. Additionally I was responsible for researching the Commonwealth's health care proxy statute and the possibility of incorporating living will language; the preexisting durable power of attorney and guardianship responsibilities relating to anti-psychotic medications and commitments to mental health facilities; and hospital discharges to nursing homes as they relate to civil commitment and right to counsel. Lastly, the internship included trainings on housing; Medicaid; consumer law; benefits; guardianship and nursing homes as well as weekly department case reviews.
These clinical experiences can not be fully realized in a classroom setting or moot court room. These are real people with real issues that do not fit neatly into any casebook. The clinical program at New England School of Law goes well beyond the prepared syllabi of core law school classes. It is an exceptional program that can be tailored to both day and evening student's schedule if your regular employer is supportive and flexible. I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to be mentored by incredibly knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys who truly were pivotal in my decision to pursue public interest law upon graduation from New England School of Law.