Right from the start of my 1L year, I was able to get involved. The school’s Center for Law and Social Responsibility (CLSR) and Professor David Siegel were starting a new volunteer opportunity for students that year: the CORI Initiative. A CORI (criminal offender record information) is the term for a person’s criminal record in Massachusetts. The group worked in conjunction with the CORI and Re-entry Project at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) to assist indigent persons with sealing their CORI. Despite being only a 1L, I was able to volunteer with this group of student volunteers. After some training, I reviewed criminal records (CORIs), determined what cases could be sealed, called and interviewed clients, and drafted supporting affidavits for upcoming sealing hearings. This experience exposed me to client interaction and problem-solving skills right at the start of my law school career.
My work with the CORI Initiative was a steppingstone for other beneficial public interest experiences. The summer after my 1L year, I interned at GBLS with the CORI and Re-entry Project. I was able to fund that summer with a grant from a student organization at the school: the Public Interest Law Association (PILA). During the spring of my second year of law school, I took a clinical class, the Lawyering Process, with Professor Russell Engler. I was placed with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association and focused on housing law and assisting persons facing eviction and other housing issues.
The clinic offered a class component as well, and I was able to learn valuable lawyering skills and evaluate my performance as I was in the field. I obtained a summer internship after my 2L year with the New Hampshire Public Defender. Again, I was able to obtain funding from the school, this time through the CLSR’s Summer Fellows Program. All of these experiences offered me different glimpses of our justice system, and reinforced to me the need for passionate and capable lawyers to fight for persons underrepresented in that system.
Despite this busy schedule I was still able to find sufficient time to focus on my studies. After my 1L year, I entered the write-on competition for the New England Law Review and was subsequently offered a position as an associate member. As an associate in my 2L year, I greatly improved my legal research and writing skills. Now as an executive comment and note editor I have the pleasure of working with new associate members. In doing so, I continue to find ways to improve my own writing and communication skills.
Now in my 3L and final year, my path in law school has come full circle as I continue at the CORI Initiative as the student manager. This past year as student manager has reaped many rewards: from passing down knowledge to incoming students, to seeing the program expand and grow. I have no doubt that this program will be as personally rewarding to future students as it was for me.
Looking back now, close to graduation, I am thankful for choosing a school that emphasized public service and the importance of practical, hands-on experience. This is what makes New England Law unique from other law schools. My time here, from the skills and knowledge I have learned to the people I have met, will certainly stay with me as I move forward.