During my first year I signed up for the Juvenile Language Project after hearing about it through the Women’s Law Caucus. I was not sure exactly what it was at first, but I wanted to get involved. Throughout the year I would be emailed recent cases weekly. It was my responsibility to go through the case, pick out the negative language referring mostly to women, describe why it was negative and inappropriate and then suggest appropriate language. Since the work was on a volunteer basis, I was eligible for, and earned, the school’s Public Service Transcript Notation, which now appears on my transcript. The experience widened my awareness of this nationwide problem. I realized I had a strong interest in issues related to women. Unknowingly at the time, this would grow for me during my next two years.
One of the best decisions I made in law school was sort of accidental. During the spring semester of my first year I decided I wanted to take a clinic in the following semester. I knew I needed to gain some real work exposure. Since I was still unsure what it was I wanted to do I decided the Public Interest Clinic would be a good fit. I knew that would allow me to work at New England’s in house clinic. That was my main motivation for signing up for the clinic. However, along with the clinic came a weekly seminar where public interest topics ranging the spectrum were discussed. My awareness and knowledge of public interest issues grew immensely.
Meanwhile, I was also gaining invaluable experience at the clinic. I interviewed clients, spoke with clients on the phone, wrote motions, and even argued two motions in court! I was just starting my second year of law school and felt like an attorney. I also was working with indigent clients and learning how important and necessary it is for them to receive legal aid.
Coming off of my semester at the clinic and after taking some classes, such as family law and juvenile law, I realized I really wanted to focus on issues related to women and children. Over the summer after my second year I worked at a law firm, which specializes in juvenile law. While there I was able to expand my knowledge of juvenile law, but also gained exposure to public interest issues. Unfortunately, many of the juvenile law cases intersect with low-income families. We did home visits and I read histories of these young children and their experiences. It sounds cliché, but it is almost impossible to imagine how children can deal with some of these experiences. It inspired me to want to work with low-income children and families.
After taking a couple of additional classes related to my area of interest, such as Abuse and Neglect of Children and Children and the Law, I decided I wanted to gain some more real world exposure. I signed up for the Family Law Clinic for the fall semester of my third year. I was unsure what placement I would receive, but knew I wanted to do something related to women and children.
Unexpectedly, I ended up with a placement at the Probate and Family Court in Middlesex County. The placement actually illustrated the disparities between low and high-income families immensely. Watching pro se litigants, seeing the numerous contempt hearings for child support arrears, or hearing in divorces the main issue being debt division solidified for me how important it is for indigent clients to have attorneys. It also demonstrated how much these families need help and are not receiving it. I wondered after watching so many single mothers appear pro se seeking arrears how many more mothers there were. How many other children were living with a single parent off of one income? I also watched families, regardless the income, argue over children or put children in the middle of divorce proceedings. This experience really opened my eyes to the need in this area.
I think throughout my law school career I have been lucky enough to have made decisions, some calculated, some accidental, that have been enormously beneficial. They have also enabled me to realize my large desire to work in the public interest field. I am hoping to do so after graduation with a focus on women and children. (March, 2010)