(Boston, Revised 01/04/10) New England Law | Boston: Ligia Rodriguez ’11 spent the summer cataloguing personal stories of family turmoil, addiction, and financial collapse. Others might have staggered under the heartrending disclosures, but Rodriguez, a down-to-earth evening student with an encouraging style, remained undaunted – even inspired – by her internship with Shelter Legal Services of Newton, MA. “I like public service and this has been a great experience,” she said. “I am helping people, and that’s what I want to do with my legal training.”
Rodriguez was one of four recipients nationwide of the Justice Fund scholarships given by the ABA John J. Curtin Justice Fund Legal Internship Program, which is open to students from all 200 ABA-approved law schools. Rodriguez volunteered as a second-year student at Shelter Legal Services, which was among the factors that enabled her to win the Justice Fund award.
In the summer internship, Rodriguez handled intake assessments and worked with some of the hundreds of clients who are assisted annually by Shelter Legal Service’s four clinics, which include Rosie’s Place, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women in Boston’s South End; the Multi-Service Center for the Homeless in Cambridge; and clinics for homeless veterans.
Rodriguez received a bachelor’s degree in law and political science in her native Panama. She credits growing up in her homeland’s rural mountains for her natural bent for helping others.
Approximately one-third of the Shelter Legal Service’s clients are immigrants, and Rodriguez’s Spanish fluency was helpful.
The cases are often complicated. In one instance, a public housing resident filed a restraining order against her former partner, to prevent the man, a drug abuser with diagnosed mental illness, from visiting their child. (The child had witnessed the domestic violence that broke up her parents’ relationship.) Rodriguez and Caitlin Delphin ’11, another summer intern, assisted the woman together and ensured that her rights and those of her child were protected.
In public service law, the hours are long and the workload is daunting, said Lisa LaFera ’02, Shelter Legal Service’s executive director—but the benefits are immeasurable, both for clients in desperate need and for those who believe the law should improve people’s lives. New England Law’s commitment to public service law is fully evident at Shelter Legal Services, whose staff also includes Rodriguez’s supervisor, attorney Sarah Roxburgh ’08. Roxburgh’s predecessor was Katie Menard ’06, who also began as a summer intern.
The summer internship fits clearly into Rodriguez’s career plans. “I like how Shelter works and how connected I’ve been with clients here,” she said. “This is the kind of work that I want to be involved in, helping people like we do here.”