I’m so excited to be hosting a guest blog from 2L Lauren Koster on her public interest experiential learning experience.
For the spring semester of our 1L year, Boston College Law introduced an exciting element of choice: selecting an experiential learning elective to start building the skills it takes to be a lawyer. Some of our classmates opted for a course to practice negotiation or civil litigation. In the course of my choosing, “Leadership, Communication, and Social Justice for the Public Interest Practitioner,” our experiential element was driven entirely by a team project of our own design.
When Pooja Mehta, Alex Booker, Christian Milde, and I formed our group during one of our class sessions early in the spring 2017 term, “Project Dignity” was the working name for our amorphous documentary project proposal. Our personal and professional experiences led us to wonder not whether vulnerable individuals were falling through the cracks of our legal system, but rather who these persons were and how they were being purposely silenced. We were in law school to change the status quo and hoped that a short film–through which the persons silenced by our system spoke in their own words–would reveal how the legal system needed to be improved.
To test this hypothesis, we reached out to public interest practitioners, thinking through them we would find the interviewees for whom we were really looking. But instead, we found our project.
As we interviewed a variety of public interest lawyers, we discovered how difficult it was for the lawyers to connect with everyone who needed their services. Yet we also learned how empowering the legal system could be when it provided individuals with an outlet to speak for themselves.
A client-turned-advocate spoke passionately about finally being heard when it came to her needs and the needs of her family, thanks to her tireless legal aid attorney working with her, not just for her. Attorneys at non-profit organizations, legal aid, and private firms doing pro bono work, as well as former attorneys in academia, were all cognizant of the failures in the system, why they existed, and who they most affected. And they often had thoughts on how to solve these issues to better serve those who needed representation the most but who were not receiving it.
Our hypothesis was not wrong. Public interest practitioners may struggle to find the clients that they know need their support the most. Similarly, we struggled to find the very persons whose stories we wanted to highlight. Ultimately, we saw ways, large and small, that attorneys were trying desperately not to perpetuate the problem, and we realized how much potential exists within the public interest sector and how our generation of lawyers holds the key to ensuring those who have been silenced are finally heard.
And so, we bring you Project Dignity, a look into how the legal system is restoring–and can continue to restore–dignity to the lives of those who have been robbed of it by the social forces of power and privilege. We hope that you will consider a future in public interest and take advantage of the resources that Boston College Law has to offer to make that future and the future of our communities a reality.