By Lydia Mwalimu Adude, LL.M. ’16
They say that the market is flooded with lawyers, but this does not really mean that the field of public interest is flooded. Public interest law is still in dire need of lawyers. Accordingly, my main driving force in taking part in the spring pro bono projects was because it presented an opportunity for me to give back to society with my already acquired legal skills, and equally to get more acquainted with the U.S. legal system.
I worked with the Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and the Legal Advocacy & Resource Center (LARC). I worked with LARC screening clients for intake in a number of areas, including bankruptcy law. I also worked on a lawyer for the day project by conducting online research and telephone inquiries on the lawyer for the day programs and other pro se resources in probate and family courts in Massachusetts. I assisted GBLS Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Sealing Unit during its legal representation of clients at the Roxbury Trial Court, and visited Massachusetts State House to help create awareness on a Senate Bill, SB 2176, passed by the Massachusetts Senate on March 10, 2016 to increase the felony larceny threshold from the current $250 to $1500. My presence at GBLS also presented an opportunity to attend the Boston City Housing public hearing at the Boston City Hall on the proposed Just Cause Eviction (JCE) ordinance. JCE seeks to incorporate safeguards for renters facing eviction and small home owners facing foreclosure of their homes in the Boston housing economy.
I was hesitant at first because of my foreign legal education but I am glad that I was able to fit in nicely so fast through the guidance of my supervisors. What surprised me most was the diverse pool of persons seeking legal aid in order to access justice, and the fact that the limitations on the legal services field meant that most persons had to be turned away even though the organization did try its best to make external referrals. I believe the spring break pro bono project exposed me to the intricacies of the legal services sector in the U.S., and the diverse nature of the U.S. populace. All in all it gives me great pleasure to know that my pro bono legal service made justice accessible to someone in need of legal aid.