During the second semester of my 1L year Professor Engler, director of the clinic program, hosted an informational session about the school's existing placements and his regular practice of matching clinics with students' specific interests. He worked with me to secure a placement with Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services (MCLS) for the first semester of my 2L year, through the school’s Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic.
MCLS is a not-for-profit corporation, dedicated primarily to assisting prisoners pursue legal remedies for issues related to their confinement, such as guard brutality and health care. I researched a variety of subject areas, learned about the complexities of class action suits, helped to synthesize data reports regarding the results of surveys and studies conducted by the organization, and corresponded with prisoner clients by phone, mail, and through in-person visits. My most memorable trip was to Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. My experience at this maximum security facility opened my eyes to its inner-workings and to the unique challenges associated with housing large prisoner populations with diverse needs.
I followed my clinic with a course in prisoners' rights and then with an internship with the Pro Se Staff Attorney at the Federal District Court, working largely with prisoners' complaints. Coupling relevant courses with my clinics and internships allowed me to specialize in an area of real interest to me.
I ended my law school experience with the Criminal Procedure II Clinic, which set me up with the District Attorney's Office in Roxbury, where I was a student attorney practicing under the student practice rule, SJC Rule 3:03. Two weeks into my clinic I was standing before the court in arraignments and at the end of my first month I was negotiating plea agreements with defense attorneys, collecting discovery, standing at pretrial hearings, and arguing motions.
In the course of one semester I was offered the opportunity to prepare for two jury trials. While both cases pled out the day of trial, the preparation offered a great learning opportunity. Our supervisor deemed us "student prosecutors" and treated us as assistant district attorneys (ADAs), expecting that we maximize our courtroom experience; he never allowed a student to be stuck behind a desk with the task of simply filing paperwork. We worked as a team and ADAs gladly acted as mentors and voluntarily hosted training sessions; one even took me on a "field trip" to Boston Police Department's Latent Fingerprint Lab to learn about the process of lifting prints off evidence.
I have only great things to say about New England Law's clinical programs, and am especially grateful for the experience and networking opportunities. If I were to give only one piece of advice to incoming students it would absolutely be to take advantage of these programs.