“I'd like you to meet my friend Sara. She's one of those ‘do-gooder’ people. She's going to law school” This is how my best friends introduced me to their buddies during college graduation week. In a bar. Of course, everyone laughed and went about their socializing and drinking, but to this day I remember being called a do-gooder fondly. I don't know whether it was the person that said it or the reaction to it, but that day I finally realized I was headed in the right direction and I was in a good place to do get there.
I have always wanted to “change the world” and “help people” but when you're 16 or 17 and applying to colleges, you have no clue how to do that or really any clue what it means to work in the public interest. And to be honest, I chose law school because I was a political science major in college and it just seemed like the next reasonable step in an academic career (my parents are both college professors). I figured I could use law school as a means to an end and change the world—not to mention making my lawyer cousin happy that someone was following in his footsteps. And I chose New England because the school had a reputation for a good clinical program and public interest focus.
It wasn't until second year, though, that I started to partake in all the things New England School of Law had to offer—the clinics, the public interest law association, and even the charity fundraisers. I had professors to lead me in the right direction and alumni to answer questions about jobs and I found a terrific internship with the U.S. Army my second summer. I worked at their legal assistance office for 4 weeks of that internship and fell promptly in love with the craziness of a waiting room, a million phone calls, and more than one client waiting in my office. Each satisfactory client meeting and simple “thank you” told me I was where I wanted to be. I was able to build my resume and get credit through the two clinics I took, the Immigration and Mediation Clinics. And eventually, also through NESL, I found a legal aid staff attorney position in Arizona, focusing on aiding those in Navajo Nation.
So I finally became the “do-gooder” everyone thought I was and that I always wanted to be. I have to move to Arizona, and I may qualify financially for the legal assistance I will be giving to others, but then again I've been taught my whole life that money isn't the be all and end all of life. Working in the public interest will never make me rich, but I think I will at least have better stories war stories than my colleagues!