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Inside My Law School Clinic Experience: Students Share Their Stories
Clinic students during a planning meeting

Want to learn more about clinical legal education in law school? These students will walk you through their first-hand clinic experiences in everything from family law to immigration to government to prosecution.

Law school clinical programs afford students invaluable hands-on opportunities, as they get to represent real clients in real cases, under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Legal clinics can bring your classroom learning to life, and they can even help clarify your career goals. Not to mention it’s the kind of hands-on experience that employers love to see.

You can get a better sense of what legal clinics are like by reading the profiles below, as New England Law | Boston students share their clinical experiences.

Health law

Candice Carrington, Class of 2018

I came to New England Law | Boston with the goal of gaining practical experience that would help me become a skilled attorney and a marketable job applicant in my legal career. I achieved these goals through my participation in the Health Law, Business and Intellectual Property, and Lawyering Process clinics.

During the fall semester of 2016, I was accepted in the Health Law clinic, where I worked in the law school’s in-house clinic, the Clinical Law Office at Church Street, as a student attorney under Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. While there, I worked side-by-side with my supervising attorney, who was a full-time faculty member at the school, representing a client in a dispute with the Social Security Administration. I also drafted advance planning documents on behalf of a different client. This clinic allowed me to work on legal matters from start to finish and has taught me how to interview and build relationships with clients, request and gather evidence, plan cases, perform legal research, prepare a client before a hearing, develop and present legal arguments, and write a will, power of attorney, and health care proxy. Although I enjoyed this experience overall, the most exciting part was representing my client at a social security disability hearing because I had the opportunity to give an opening statement, ask my client questions pertaining to his cases before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and obtain a positive outcome for my client at the hearing. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding practical experience to kick off my legal career.

This experience led me to apply to the Business and Intellectual Property Clinic the following semester. I was accepted in this clinic, where I worked in the Health Information Systems (HIS) Department at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) as a Privacy Specialist Intern. During this internship, I helped the HIS team investigate HIPAA cases and apply the facts in each case to state and federal privacy regulations to determine whether or not there had been a breach of protected health information. In addition, I researched the law surrounding whether there is a private right of action for a HIPAA breach and wrote a paper on my findings. Although this was a nontraditional legal job, it was a great experience and it allowed me to further my research, writing, and analytical skills as well as work as a team player.

After having two great clinical experiences, I applied and was accepted into the Lawyering Process clinic during my last semester of law school. I worked at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) in the Elder, Heath, and Disability Unit as a student attorney under SJC Rule 3:03. This experience was similar to my Health Law clinic placement, but it allowed me to handle more disability cases with the Social Security Administration as well as MassHealth. At GBLS, I was treated as an actual attorney, where I managed and built the cases from the bottom up. I did everything from drafting and filing memoranda for Administrative Law Judge hearings, developing the evidentiary record, planning cases, maintaining frequent contact with clients and prepping them for their hearing to representing them at their hearing, citing arguments on the record, and requesting permission to enter evidence as exhibits at the hearing.

Overall, my clinical experiences have taught me a great deal about what it takes to be an attorney. I would recommend applying for at least one legal clinic during your law school career because you will learn a number of valuable and transferable skills, such as how to interview and build relationships with clients, request and gather evidence, case plan, perform legal research, counsel clients, conduct negotiations, and form and present legal arguments, like I have, that will help you become a marketable and well-prepared candidate in your legal career.

Family law

Ashley Groves, Class of 2018

I chose to attend New England Law knowing I wanted to become a lawyer to help people. I already had it in my head that I wanted to work in family law, but I did not have any specific path in mind. I was not sure if I wanted to go into private practice or work with low-income litigants. New England Law provided me with plenty of opportunities to practice real-world skills to accompany my classroom learning. I now have a better grasp on how I would like to spend my legal career after the Bar. I was not only able to work in public interest law through the school’s Summer Fellowship Program, the clinical program, and as a volunteer, but I also joined the school’s Public Interest Law Association, a student group, where I served as treasurer my last two years of law school.

During my 1L spring I interviewed for and obtained a summer internship at the Court Service Center through the Summer Fellowship Program. The Court Service Center caters to persons who are unable to hire or afford an attorney and who require assistance with forms and understanding the court process. It was honestly one of the most enlightening and challenging experiences of my life. From the very first day I was tasked with client intake and completing court forms. It involved a great deal of deciphering the litigant’s issue based on the story that they provided and determining the options available to help that person reach their end goal. I would work one-on-one with pro se litigants in all aspects of their family law and housing matters. The training I received was great, but I learned so much more by being thrown into the chaos and asking questions. I also had an amazing supervisor who made every experience a learning opportunity without me even realizing.

A lot of the people I saw at the Court Service Center were in a position where they could not afford an attorney, but they also were not in a financial position to qualify for free legal assistance. I could sense their frustration and wanted to do as much as I could to help. Some of the legal issues seemed minor, such as simple name changes, but others had significant impacts on the lives of the litigants. Children, marriages, and housing arrangements were on the line, and the cases were often too complex for us to handle without providing legal advice. This was the point where I realized that assisting low- to moderate-income persons is exactly what I wanted to do with my law degree.

I was glad that I had the opportunity to work at the Court Service Center, and I was asked to continue there as a volunteer during my 2L year. I spent one day a week at the Center until I signed up for the Family Law Clinic through New England Law. I was immediately placed with the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, specifically working during their weekly family law clinic, which happened to be held at the Court Service Center. Under the guidance of the supervising attorney, I was given the chance to practice providing legal advice and digging into some of the same cases that I had first come into contact with during my Summer Fellowship. I was even exposed to an entire case from the intake stage all the way through an uncontested divorce hearing.

It was eye opening to see the effect my help was having on the people who needed it most, and it only strengthened the thought that I wanted to be a family law attorney. The only difference is that I would someday like to open my own firm dedicated to providing affordable legal services to those who fall into the gray area of not being able to practically afford counsel but also not qualifying for free legal help. Until then I intend to continue volunteering at the Court Service Center, facing new challenges to expand my legal knowledge every day.

Immigration law, family law

Lesly Suriel-Guerrero, Class of 2018

One of my favorite parts of law school was being part of the clinical law program. When I first started law school, I was focused on immigration law. I entered with the mindset of becoming an immigration law attorney and taking classes that prepared me for that pathway. I knew the legal clinics would provide me with legal experience and connections, and it was one of the main reasons I chose New England Law.

My first clinic was the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic during the first semester of my 2L year. I interned at the Clinical Law Office under the supervision of Professor Mitchell-Munevar. This experience was a pivotal moment in my law school career as well as my future profession. I was certified as a student attorney under the Massachusetts student practice rule, SJC Rule 3:03. I was able to represent clients in family law matters. The experience taught me how to communicate with clients, obtain the information necessary to do the best job possible, create a relationship built with trust, and draft court pleadings and documents as well as appear in front of a judge. It gave me the confidence to work independently and know I was in the profession I was passionate about because I was helping individuals who needed legal services but also needed to be shown respect, dedication, and understanding for the situation they were experiencing.

The clinic also showed me the importance of having a great supervising attorney and support system when representing clients. Professor Mitchell-Munevar treated me as an attorney: she provided guidance and observation but allowed me to follow my instincts and she trusted my work. The Clinical Law Office was one of my favorite places to work in because of the staff, who truly wanted students to succeed and get as much experience as possible.

Related: What Are Law School Clinical Programs Really Like? Students Explain

My second clinic was the Immigration Law Clinic. I wanted to pursue my old passion after finding a new passion in the law. I interned at Costa & Riccio, LLP, and worked on business immigration matters such as employment visas: visas for exceptional ability, outstanding researchers, and national interests. I always wanted to focus on immigration law matters concerning adjustment of status, keeping families together, and human interest, but this internship showed me a different side of immigration law, one that is very important and benefits many individuals in the United States. It also allowed me to acquire new skills in a different legal area. I practiced immigration law at Roman Law Offices too. I was able to work independently on special juvenile immigration status cases for undocumented children under eighteen years old as well as those older for specific equity cases. I drafted court pleadings for guardianship, custody, and equity cases. I also interviewed with clients and handled all aspects of their case. I was able to work on two very different sides of immigration law and obtained a lot of experience.

My third clinic was the Massachusetts Practice Clinic. I did an externship at the Suffolk County Superior Court, first assigned to the Clerk’s office. It was an eye-opening experience because I got to see inside the courthouse, how it functions, and all the hard work everyone has to do to make the court work efficiently. Having an inside view allowed me to understand the justice system better and see how all aspects must cooperate: court staff, attorneys, and legal staff and clients. I was also able to observe court hearings and trials; watching other lawyers, I learned how to behave in front of judges and the best ways to approach different situations or questions that arise during court proceedings. I was also able to see jury duty and how individuals are chosen. It was a great experience that taught me more about Massachusetts’ laws and court procedures.

My fourth clinic was the Family Law Clinic. I decided to finish my law school career with my new passion. I interned for Casa Myrna Vasquez, which provides legal services for survivors of domestic violence. I absolutely loved it. I learned so much about the importance of building a relationship with a client in such a tough situation, to make sure to listen to them, to be neutral and not bring any biases to the table. I drafted letters, court pleadings, and documents to represent my clients. I worked independently knowing that my supervising attorney trusted me to do my assigned work. I was also able to hold client meetings and lead them, giving the client advice, support, and education about their legal matter, as well as simply listening to their decision. A lot that has to be done in respect to domestic violence matters and how it is handled in courts, but providing legal services to survivors and giving them a voice and a chance made this clinic the best experience for me. I was able to see how much an attorney or legal staff can affect a person’s life, and being part of that is very gratifying.

The clinic program provides legal experience, skills, and education about whatever law field a person is passionate about. It gives students the opportunity to act and feel like attorneys, provides them with confidence and responsibilities that prepares them for their future. It also gives the students connections to the legal world and a support system through Professor Engler, the director of the clinical program, as well as the staff at the Clinical Law Office, and each supervising attorney and professor for the clinics. It is an experience I would recommend to any student already at New England Law and those thinking of enrolling.

Criminal law, prosecution

Victor John, Class of 2018

I started law school unsure of what I wanted to do with my career. All I knew was that I wanted to work directly with people and make a positive impact. My first clinic was the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic, which I took in the fall of 2016, my second year in law school. I chose a placement at the school’s in-house clinic and was supervised by a full-time New England Law professor. I also was certified as a student attorney under the Massachusetts student practice Rule, SJC Rule 3:03. I worked with clients on divorce matters and got my first taste of court—it was terrifying, but I loved it.

In the seminar portion of the clinic I learned more about criminal law and was particularly drawn to prosecution as a public interest position. I had never thought about it that way. As such, in the summer of 2017, I worked at the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in East Boston. The work was thrilling. I got to argue motions in front of the judge, I was forced to think on my feet, and I learned more than I ever thought I would about prosecution. I absolutely loved it.

In the fall of 2017, I took the Criminal Procedure II Clinic and worked in the same office but this time in South Boston. Because I already had some experience, I was able to handle most of the discovery for the office and argue motions with little to no oversight from my supervisor. I prepped a few trials too.

Looking back, the clinics I did inspired me to be a prosecutor. I learned then that no lawyer has more influence over the criminal process and the lives of others than the prosecutor. The position is a tremendous opportunity both to serve the community and practice public interest law.

Based on my experience in the clinics and in my summer position, I decided to apply to District Attorney Offices for a full-time position after graduation. I will be starting as an Assistant District Attorney at Essex County in September of 2018, and I'm so thankful for the public interest experience I've had at New England Law. Through this experience, I feel prepared for the job.

Related: What Public Interest Law Means to Me: Law Students Speak

Immigration law

Stephanie Naranjo, Class of 2018

I entered into law school interested in international and immigration law. I was very excited to learn about the school’s clinical program and also wanted to take advantage of the summer months in between semesters to gain more experience. Classes teach a lot about the law, but internships and clinics allow students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real cases.

During my 1L to 2L summers, I had the opportunity to intern for the immigration unit at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). GBLS has a very good reputation for serving low-income people in Massachusetts in different areas of law. I mainly worked on asylum applications. Although interviewing clients about their fear to return to their country was emotionally difficult at times, having the opportunity to go to immigration court and witness three clients whose cases I worked on receive asylum is very gratifying. For the summer after my 1L year, I received a Summer Fellowship from the school for my work at GBLS. I enjoyed working at GBLS so much I returned as a volunteer for two semesters.

I participated in the Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic in the fall of my second year, which allowed me to practice as a student attorney certified under Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. I had the amazing privilege to work with Professor Mitchell-Munevar who taught me to be confident in the courtroom, showed me how to conduct an interview using an interpreter so that the client feels comfortable, and helped me develop my legal writing. I worked with clients to petition for child custody and divorce stemming from abusive relationships.

It had never crossed my mind to practice family law, but this experience showed me the positive impact family law attorneys have on people who are trying to escape terrible situations makes the work worthwhile. Professor Engler’s Public Interest Law Seminar was one of the best and most engaging classes I have taken during my time at the law school. I was able to learn more about the important work and social issues public interest attorneys face in their work.

For my 3L spring break, two of my fellow classmates and I decided to travel to Dilley, Texas, to volunteer for the CARA Pro Bono Project. CARA is a collaboration of legal organizations that provides legal services for women and children who have been detained along the Mexican border and are sent to one of the largest detention centers in the United States, the South Texas Family Residential Center. The women and children who enter this facility are escaping countries, mostly in Central and South America, that are experiencing violence. They often enter the United States to seek asylum but are separated from family members at the border. I prepared clients for their credible fear interviews and assisted with a motion to appeal a decision for one of the client’s denial to their reasonable fear interview. As much as the women thanked me for preparing them for their interviews, I felt grateful for their trusting me enough to tell me about their horrific experiences. The work the CARA project does is very inspiring. Public interest law can be emotional, but I believe it is the most rewarding work.

Government, public interest law

Stacie Pavao, Class of 2018

I’ve always known I wanted to become a lawyer, but I didn't always know what area of law I was interested in pursuing. During my undergraduate studies, I did an internship at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in the Charities Division working on investigations involving the Boston Marathon One Fund. I fell in love with the public interest aspect of government work and the larger societal impact it had.

During my years as a full-time day student at New England Law | Boston, I took advantage of the clinical program every chance I could to gain as much experience in public interest as possible. In the fall of my 2L year, I enrolled in the Administrative Law Clinic to continue pursing my interest in governmental public interest work. I worked as a legal intern for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue in the Litigation Bureau.

In the spring, I took the Federal Courts Clinic, where I interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Civil Rights Division. This was my most enjoyable clinical experience. I spent the entire semester working on an investigation into a violation of the public accommodations provision of the ADA by a prominent private school in the Boston area. I was able to sit in on informal depositions and even had the opportunity to meet the little girl with a disability who I was working to ensure had her civil rights protected.

In the fall of my 3L year, I decided to enroll in the school’s Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic, and I was able to work as a certified student attorney under the Massachusetts student practice rule, Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. I shifted gears a bit and decided to look into the defense side of public interest law. This was my first opportunity to work directly with clients at Greater Boston Legal Services in the CORI & Re-Entry Project. I assisted indigent clients in petitioning to seal their criminal records that were disadvantageous for housing and employment opportunities. Speaking and meeting with clients on a regular basis was a rewarding experience. I also had the chance to represent a client in a petition to seal hearing at the Roxbury District Court. There was nothing like seeing the women’s smile after the judge granted her petition, and hearing her say she felt that I cared and worked so hard to help her so she could better her life for her and her son.

In my last semester of law school, I decided to revert back to my love for government public interest work. I am currently interning at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, with a placement at the Chelsea District Court, and again am working as a certified student attorney under SJC Rule 3:03 as part of the Criminal Procedure II Clinic. I spend all of my clinic hours in court, whether it's assisting one of the assistant district attorneys on a case or standing in on tenders of pleas or bail hearings. I enjoy the unique challenges every day brings, while also gaining the invaluable practical courtroom experience.

My clinical experiences at New England Law, combined with the various public interest–related courses that I was able to take, has only furthered my interest in the public interest field after graduation.

Explore legal clinical opportunities at New England Law.