I’m pleased to host a guest post from 3L Jared Friedberg, who spent some time last year working in BC’s Immigration Clinic.
With the semester winding down and people thinking about next year, I wanted to provide a recommendation: enroll in the immigration clinic. I spent my 2L year in the immigration clinic, and as I look back on my time at BC, it was the most impactful experience that I have had in law school.
The purpose of a clinic is to give students the opportunity to work directly with clients. In the immigration clinic, that means visits to immigration court, detention facilities, the clients’ homes, and anywhere else that the case requires you to go. Over the course of two semesters, I had five clients. While representing our clients, my classmates and I met their families, friends, and coworkers. Some of them lived a few streets from where I grew up and some lived across the world.
There were days that I would have to talk to my clients about the hardest moments in their lives. They would share painful memories of being persecuted and describe dangerous journeys to the U.S. that took them from their families. They would also talk about the mistakes they had made and times when they had broken the law. There were many moments where my clients expressed shame at what they had done, and I can remember countless conversations where I felt ashamed for the things that I take for granted in my own life.
However, these difficult conversations were balanced by the conversations where my clients talked about their proudest qualities. They told me stories about walking their children to school, sending money home to support their families, and helping members of their communities. My clients’ stories were all different, but each was characterized by a persistent hopefulness that trauma could not deter.
Beyond the meaningful client relationships, the immigration clinic also gives students the opportunity to form lasting relationships with professors, fellow clinic members, social work students, and local immigration attorneys. I was regularly amazed by the law and social work students that I worked alongside in both of my semesters. The students that I worked with developed complicated and creative legal arguments, and they also demonstrated deep compassion for their clients and colleagues.
The members of the immigrant defense community in Boston were unbelievably intelligent and generous with their time. These attorneys made me feel like I was part of a larger team, whose mission was to restore some humanity and dignity to a very difficult process. However, the person who had the biggest impact on me was Professor Mary Holper, the director of the immigration clinic.
Professor Holper does it all. At any given time, she is teaching a class, supervising an independent study, managing a busy docket of cases in Immigration Court, and reviewing several appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the First Circuit. Because the stakes of clinic work are so high, Professor Holper demands a lot from her students–but she never sets an expectation that she does not meet herself. Some of the most challenging and time-sensitive assignments I have had in law school came out of the immigration clinic, but Professor Holper always provided the support and feedback that I needed to produce my best work. She is fair, direct, and thorough, and she shows her students that the most important part of being an attorney is acting with integrity.
For any student who is considering a clinic, and particularly for those thinking of learning more about immigration work, I would urge you to apply. It is an experience that will leave you fulfilled and significantly more prepared to be a lawyer. I am an unremarkable student (likely best known on campus for wearing sweatpants everyday), but the immigration clinic gave me the opportunity to do remarkable things. It made me proud of my peers, proud of my school, and proud of our community. If you participate in this clinic, you may lose out on some sleep, but I can promise that you will always wake up excited.