Post 1: Compassionate and Creative Counsel at the Legal Aid Society

The Legal Aid Society is a nonprofit organization that offers legal assistance to indigent clients in the city of New York through myriad practice areas. LAS works to help clients through direct legal representation, legal advocacy, and partnerships with many internal and external social services. Speaking more abstractly, LAS represents, in my opinion, the best of what legal aid can be: a holistic approach to counsel that puts the client in the best position to not only win their case, but to feel supported in other aspects of their life during, and often after, the period in which their case is being fought. This means that clients are connected to any number of social services they may need, including medical, physiological, housing, and  monetary support. Lawyers may call to just check up on the client–and really listen. Employees constantly push each other to be the best advocates they can be, through trainings, talk, and honest conversation. This holistic and compassionate approach to counsel is what I love about LAS, and why I was so excited to intern here!

I am working for the Immigration Unit at LAS. The first two weeks were spent in trainings, which really shows how dedicated the organization is to ensuring that every part of the organization is operating to the best of its ability. We got crash courses in all types of immigration-related topics, as well as trainings on case management and ethical lawyering.

I have two supervising lawyers who give me all different sorts of assignments. Like you’d expect, some of my time is spent filling out paperwork. It is less tedious than it sounds, as that means I get to call clients and ask for information, which is great practice. This also allows me opportunities to check up on them, which I enjoy. I am also working on a creative video project for an asylum case. This includes corresponding with the client and her family, editing the video, and writing a memo to document the legal precedent for such evidence. I am also interviewing a client for a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petition, a special type of protective immigrant status, and writing her affidavit. Additionally, I am working to compile evidence to demonstrate how the Chinese government contributes to the negative treatment of citizens with mental health issues. As a side project, I work to help clients answer their unemployment-related questions, and I will soon be working on DACA applications. Other than that, it is just small tasks here and there.

Like any nonprofit, LAS is very “all hands on deck.” In that way, every task I do helps the organization run as smoothly as possible. I definitely don’t feel like my work is getting lost in the mix. Everything I do feels like it has a direct and concrete purpose.  I hope I am furthering the mission of the organization by showing clients compassion, patience, and care during our interactions.

Progress doesn’t look like any one thing. Progress takes form in getting a client on Medicaid, or gaining enough trust to have them open up about really painful things. Progress takes form in the constant email chains on the LAS server where advocates push each other to be better. Progress is also a Supreme Court decision like that of DACA. Progress means combating negative changes to immigration laws, and in doing so creating a better future for all immigrants and native-born Americans.

To anyone reading who is able, I urge you to submit a comment ( by July 15th) to tell the Administration that the newly proposed asylum regulations, aimed to dismantle asylum as we know it, are disgusting and despicable. To learn more, look here, and to comment, look here.

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