Attending law school has been my dream since I was 12. After learning about the judicial system in my 7th grade civics course, I pursued an internship at my local district attorney’s office. A secretary allowed me to be her personal intern and I spent my school breaks in the office. The experience defined my middle and high school years and cemented my desire to go to law school. While in undergrad at Vanderbilt University, I interned with the Nashville Public Defenders Office. Both internships opened my eyes to the power of direct legal services and heightened my desire to serve individuals and communities in need.
As I entered Harvard Law School, I was excited to hone my advocacy skills and sample potential public service careers. I knew I wanted to pursue a job in direct advocacy but was overwhelmed with the multitude of options. During my 1L year, I found myself placed in a reading group focusing on child rights and quickly developed a passion for the topic. I further explored this interest by taking advantage of relevant doctrinal courses and attending Child Advocacy Program (CAP) events. As I learned more about laws impacting children, I developed a passion for how the legal system can be utilized to protect our most vulnerable populations.
That is how I found myself enrolled in the Child Advocacy Clinic. Directed by Crisanne Hazen, the coursework focused on surveying topics, challenges, and careers within child advocacy and developing skills to excel as an advocate. The weekly seminar complemented the internship. I was placed in the Children and Family Law Division (CAFL) of the Committee for Public Council Services (CPCS) and worked directly under Jessica Rubin-Willis. I was able to learn as I observed the attorneys represent their clients with passion, empathy, and scrupulous attention to detail.
In law school, it can be easy to get lost in the case law and lose sight of the humans described in fact patterns. The clinic brought compassion back to the forefront of my law school experience. As expected, I had the opportunity to write motions, briefs, and conduct legal research. However, I also had the opportunity to directly work with clients on a daily basis. From Jessica and the other CAFL attorneys, I learned the importance of addressing clients’ needs with compassion. She taught me how to conduct interviews, prepare for trial, and otherwise be a sounding board for clients. I was able to see how an effective legal strategy not only accounts for the law but the client’s personal situation.
Thanks to Crisanne and Jessica, the Child Advocacy Clinic was the highlight of my 2L year. Both did an incredible job of intertwining case law, practical skills, and the human element of the work. I was able to see the profound impact the child welfare system had on our clients and learn how to better serve others. Seeing cases end with a positive outcome is an experience I’ll never forget. I am grateful to have had the opportunity.