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Ericka McFee (Class of 2014)

Evening Division
Prior to law school, I spent nearly seven years working for one of the “Big Five” global consulting firms in a department that managed immigration and cross-border tax issues for its employees. Although I generally liked my job and received high performance ratings, I wanted to explore other areas of immigration law beyond the business context. I also had a strong international human rights interest that I could not quite address as well in a corporate setting, beyond a handful of volunteer projects.

I took a leap of faith, applied for and was accepted to law school, then packed up my belongings and headed halfway across the country to enroll as a part-time evening student at New England Law | Boston. That leap seems to have paid off so far. Four years later, I am astounded by the great experiences I have had over the course of my law school career.

The summer after my 1L year, I spent six weeks at the National University of Ireland in Galway as part of New England Law’s summer program in international human rights. There, I took courses that covered both the substance and the history of the field. The course that had the greatest impact on me pertained to human trafficking. It was truly eye-opening to learn the enormous breadth and depth of this insidious crime, not to mention how much of it goes on right here in the United States.

The following summer, after my 2L year, I interned with an immigration firm near Siena, Italy. Although the primary focus was business immigration, the firm also assisted many individuals with citizenship issues. It was a great opportunity to gain perspective in terms of how another country manages immigration issues, and to broaden my networking scope on an international level.

In my 3L year, I served as co-president of the Immigration Law Association and became more involved in various events and projects within both the law school and external communities. These include helping individuals seal part or all of their CORI records and improve their chances in finding gainful employment; assisting young people brought by their parents to the United States without papers to potentially stay in the country longer and obtain valid work authorization through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); and writing my Comment on decriminalizing unassisted home childbirth and my Note on regional human trafficking awareness as an associate of the New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement.

In spring 2013 I took part in the school’s immigration clinic, working for a well-known and highly respected solo practitioner in Boston. This opportunity opened many doors as I met many other immigration attorneys at the office and at the regional American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference that my supervisor encouraged me to attend. That summer, I landed a paid clerkship with a prominent immigration firm.

My fourth and final year has also been filled with many great experiences. Last fall, Professor Siegel put me in touch with a solo criminal defense attorney, with whom I have really enjoyed working this past year. Although I could not represent clients (despite receiving my SJC Rule 3:03 certification, because I was working for a private attorney and not directly for the Committee for Public Counsel Service, the Commonwealth's public defender office), I made the best of my experience by keenly observing motions and trials and diligently working on my research and trial preparation duties.

This past semester, I attended the 27th Annual Robert M. Cover Retreat for students, academics, and practitioners committed to public interest law. I was one of four New England Law students selected to receive a stipend to attend the event and was honored to represent the school. It would have been easy to get overwhelmed and intimidated, listening to all of the great public interest work being done by the speakers and attendees, but it was inspiring and served as an affirmation for me as someone who aspires to be an immigration and criminal defense attorney in the not too distant future. I also served as co-chair of the annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day event sponsored by the International Law Society. We screened the documentary Not My Life, followed by a rousing panel discussion.

As I transition from law student to attorney, I reflect on my law school opportunities and am grateful for many wonderful experiences. For those who are truly interested and committed to public interest work–or any field, for that matter–many options abound, as long as you are willing to keep your eyes, mind, and heart open to them.

(May 2014)