Exposure to public interest lawyering with VLP in Boston
By Ha Ryong Jung (Michael) ‘18
As a 1L, I had been limited in my exposure to direct client services and the application of the legal theories we had been learning in the classroom. The spring break pro bono projects seemed like a fantastic opportunity to immerse myself into an atmosphere of great public interest lawyers performing noteworthy work.
I spent my week at the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) of the Boston Bar Association, which immediately enabled me to work hands-on with clients under the direct supervision of various attorneys. The daily schedules included a combination of on-the-job training and shadowing along with substantive legal work, which ranged from legal research and writing to supervised client meetings. I participated in various clinics either at a courthouse or at the VLP office, covering areas of guardianship, family law, and bankruptcy, while other students had the opportunity to work in consumer and housing law, amongst others. VLP provided us with a choice of different options that we were able to select from according to our interests, and they provided sufficient information in advance for us to feel comfortable with the work that we performed.
On a practical level, I drafted an affidavit for a motion for a speedy hearing in a guardianship case, accompanied an attorney in a joint petition for divorce case, and worked with an indigent client to complete and compile all the necessary documents to file for a chapter 7 bankruptcy. Additionally, I was given a consumer law research project on my first day and through the process of drafting the legal memo, I learned tremendously about aspects of the law that can really be applied to anyone. On top of this, I had the opportunity to contribute to translating documents and providing feedback on procedures of the office.
Overall, working with VLP was a wonderful experience, and it provided a fruitful layer of legal understanding to my primitive knowledge of the field gained through the law school thus far. The supervisors were incredibly open to answering any questions and providing feedback on the work, and the welcoming environment of VLP really enabled me to jump into the work right away and stay immersed for the entire duration. Additionally, the other students from HLS were brilliant to be with, and they enriched my spring break experience by tenfold. I feel honored to have spent my time with such an admirable group of individuals: both members of VLP and other students from HLS.
A memorable experience with VLP
By Lan Jiangshou, LL.M. ’16
I am very grateful to have spent my spring break at Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP). I never imagined how this pro bono experience could help me in a way that is so tangible and memorable. I learnt the legal knowledge and crafted my skills by attending the Boston Housing Court, the Boston Municipal Court, the Quincy Small Claims Court and the Suffolk Family Court, by participating in the trainings and luncheons organized by the VLP, and by interacting directly with the clients at different clinics on bankruptcy law, consumer law, guardianship law, family law and housing law. Moreover, as someone with a legal background from China, this five-day experience gave me the precious opportunity to see how the pro bono system in the U.S. is funded and operated, and the breadth and impact of the system in the communities.
My eyes were opened to substantive law areas that I have not, and would not encounter in the big law firms. During my spring break, I was introduced to a unique group of people who were energetic and incentivized, cautiously balancing the two requirements of their job: keeping a sympathetic and empathetic eye on the clients and avoiding a quick emotional to burn-out. I was able to glance at a previously neglected world, which is out there, vibrant and real. I would not be exaggerating when saying that pro bono work can nourish one’s soul. By handling every individual case, we drag one person or a household out of desperation. We redefine ourselves in paving the way to justice, and in aggregation naturally assume the role of fixing the systematic problems inherent in our society that I have eye-witnessed for the past five days and could not, from then on, just stand by.