In today’s Spring Break Pro Bono Highlights, we are featuring Rutgers Law School. During the 2017 spring break, 16 Rutgers students traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to volunteer and do pro bono work with the following six legal aid organizations: Georgia Innocence Project, Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Georgia Lawyers for the Arts, Truancy Intervention Program, Gideon’s Promise, and Kids in Need of Assistance.
Jill Friedman, Associate Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest at Rutgers Law School, told us that the student public interest group organized this year’s trip, with some assistance in setting up the sites from colleagues around the country. In the past, Rutgers has sent students on alternative spring break trips to New Orleans, Nashville, and Austin, and they have assisted Legal Services of New Jersey with Hurricane Sandy relief.
Prior to the students embarking on their trip, Rutgers held a session entitled “How to Succeed on Alternative Spring Break”. The session focused on professionalism and professional ethics to prepare students for working with the clients and legal aid organizations.
Two Rutgers students who participated in the trip to Atlanta were generous enough to share their thoughts on their Alternative Spring Break experiences.
Carilyn Fattman, JD Candidate 2019, Rutgers Law School – Camden
Alternative Spring Break 2017 Experience – Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Over spring break I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia with Rutgers Law School’s Alternative Spring Break program to volunteer at Atlanta Legal Aid Society (ALAS) in their Family Law Unit. While at ALAS, I worked to develop a comprehensive emergency plan for undocumented immigrant parents of U.S.-born children consisting of legal documents, personal information, and instructions for the care of the children if their parents are detained and deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This preparedness plan would establish whether the child would leave the country with their parent(s) being deported or stay in the U.S. with an appointed legal guardian. It would also include financial arrangements for plane tickets or child care, if the child has any known allergies, or what the child should do in the event that their parent(s) does not come home because they were detained by ICE. Ultimately, my experiences at ALAS were eye-opening and motivated me to continue my efforts in public interest work.
Joanna Gardner, JD Candidate 2019, Rutgers Law School – Camden
Alternative Spring Break 2017 Experience – Kids in Need of Defense
My Rutgers Alternative Spring Break placement with the Atlanta office of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) provided an eye-opening and deeply impactful glimpse into the world of asylum law. We were each given a particular child’s asylum case and our task was to familiarize ourselves with the facts, conduct legal research, and begin drafting a brief. As a 1L, this kind of hands-on legal work was by far the most advanced I had yet experienced. All of us were deeply impacted by the heart wrenching stories of our particular children. As we sat around a conference table each day doing our research, we discussed the different legal theories that might entitle them to relief with each other and the amazing attorneys at KIND. In addition to providing us with this hands-on experience, our supervisors gave us a crash course in asylum law at the beginning of the week, invited us to sit in on their office meetings and webinars with national providers, and brought us to observe immigration court. At the end of the week, we discussed our case one-on-one with the assigning attorney, who asked us for our ideas, any potential weaknesses in the case, and potential theories for relief. While I hope that our assistance was helpful to these passionate attorneys and the important work they do, I know that what we received – in the way of professional development, legal education, and eye-opening exposure to the struggles of this unique population – was far greater than what we gave.
Thank you Rutgers Law School students for your hard work during your Alternative Spring Break 2017, and for sharing so much information with us! It sounds as though everyone involved did some amazing pro bono work!