Every spring break, law students throughout the country forego the much needed rest and relaxation in order to serve others by doing pro bono work. This week, check-in as we highlight some of the spring break service trips organized by law schools throughout the country.
Today, we are highlighting the Brooklyn Law School Alternative Spring Break (BLAST) program. For the 2017 Spring Break, 11 Brooklyn Law Students traveled to one of three different sites: New Orleans, Miami, and Las Terrenas Dominican Republic.
Ephrata Zewde, Program Coordinator of the Public Service Law Center at Brooklyn Law School described the spring break projects as follows:
In New Orleans, BLAST partnered with the Louisiana Civil Justice Center. The students volunteered at the Self-Help Desk in the civil court house, worked on family law motions and disaster response programs, and helped to organize the LCJC’s “Justice Tour,” which provides legal assistance to low-income and disaster-affected individuals in Louisiana.
In Miami, BLAST participants worked with the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office. Students reviewed expert witness testimony provided during pre-trial depositions of DUI cases. They also had opportunities to observe a felony trial, and watch seasoned litigators question witnesses and give persuasive summations.
During their trip to Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic, students toured courthouses and firms, where judges and local attorneys discussed the Dominican legal system and answered their questions. Students also partnered with the firm Guzman Ariza to research Dominican law.
Participating students were generous enough to share their stories us here:
Aiman Tariq, Class of 2019: Miami Dade Public Defender’s Office
My experience with the BLAST Alternative Spring Break Program with the Miami Dade Public Defender’s office was extremely beneficial to my legal career. I had the opportunity to work with some of the most knowledgeable attorneys in the field and was able to learn from their extensive experiences. Throughout the week, I and other students, were able to observe trial and other court proceedings. We also worked on a group project related to DUI cases. In addition, I had an opportunity to assist an attorney on an ongoing DUI case. I reviewed police video and provided feedback on what I observed and how it can be used at trial. Working on these projects and observing the different court proceedings broadened my view of public defense. I would recommend this program to all Brooklyn Law School students as it was an amazing experience for me.
Jasiel Morales, Class of 2018: Dominican Republic
I thoroughly enjoyed this BLAST experience. I learned a lot about the legal system in the Dominican Republic and it was very interesting to learn about the similarities and differences between their court system and the American court system. While doing research for the law firm, I also learned about the civil code. My favorite activity was getting to meet and interview the judges of the different courts and the in-house counsel for Cemex, a building materials company. After each work day, we had the opportunity to enjoy the beach, the typical food, and learn about the culture in Las Terrenas. Overall, it was very enjoyable and educational experience.
Dana Vasers, Class of 2018: Louisiana Civil Justice Center
I had a rewarding and great experience working for the Louisiana Civil Justice Center through BLAST. One of my favorite projects at LCJC was volunteering at the Self Help Desk in the civil court house. This is an office run by LCJC which aids pro se litigants with civil issues, such as divorce, custody and protection orders. I was able to see firsthand how valuable LCJC is to the community and speak with individuals in need of legal help who cannot afford an attorney. I also appreciated that the LCJC attorneys gave us real legal work that was needed by their team. I had a great experience and would love the opportunity to be a part of a BLAST trip next year.
Thank you to all of the students who devoted your time over spring break to doing pro bono and helping others! Sounds like a real BLAST!
Join us later this week as we continue our Spring Break Pro Bono Highlights!