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Erika Barber (Class of 2012)

Day Division
During law school I had the opportunity to participate in two direct service experiences through the clinical programs. My first position was the Business Practice Credit, which enabled me to spend six to eight hours a week working for a low-income tax program run under the auspices of Greater Boston Legal Services during the busy tax season. In this position I helped filers prepare their tax returns and received valuable training in how to approach the IRS with more complicated tax matters.

One substantive project I worked on was an Offer in Compromise, which is a way for taxpayers who have become unable to work to request that the IRS lower their outstanding tax liability. Through this project I interviewed the client, helped him create monthly income and expense budgets, researched legal issues, and filed a formal request with the IRS. I chose this experience in my second year because it fit well with my Law Review responsibilities and class schedule in that it was a shorter time commitment than the traditional clinics.

In my third year I was fortunate enough to gain a spot in the Criminal Procedure II Clinic. This was a 15 hour per week commitment, so it meant taking fewer substantive courses. I can truly say it was the most important part of my legal education because it enabled me to apply all of the research, writing, and oral advocacy skills I learned in classes to real clients facing criminal charges. I obtained a placement in the office of a bar advocate, approved by the Committee for Public Counsel Service (CPCS) and authorized to accept appointment for indigent defendants. As a result, I was certified under the student practice rule, SJC 3:03, and I represented dozens of clients at arraignment, arguing for no bail or reduced bail. The attorneys who supervised me in this position were very encouraging and allowed me to represent clients early on in the process.

The best part of the Criminal Procedure II Clinic was when I got to represent a client in a motion to suppress. To prepare for this motion I met with the client, reviewed the evidence we received from the prosecution, and researched case law to write a memo in support of the motion. I then argued the motion in the West Roxbury District Court where I questioned two police officer witnesses. A few weeks after the clinic ended I received call from my supervisor that we had won the motion, meaning that the evidence the police had obtained pursuant to an improper search of my client’s car would be suppressed. The DA subsequently dismissed the case.

In addition to my work in the clinics and on Law Review, I served as vice president of fundraising for the school’s Public Interest Law Association (PILA) and as a student representative to the board of directors for the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association. I also spent the summer after my first year of law school working at the Legal Advocacy and Resource Center, providing legal advice to indigent clients in the areas of housing, public benefits, consumer law, and bankruptcy. Building on my bankruptcy work, I obtained a clerkship in United States Bankruptcy Court through the Honors Judicial Clerkship Program during the summer after my second year of law school.

The range of opportunities at New England Law | Boston enabled me to provide direct legal services and become acquainted with public service projects in the criminal and civil area. I am confident that the skills I acquired through these practical experiences will help me when I enter practice.

(May 2012)