This summer I am interning with the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), which is part of the Boston Bar Association. VLP is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to low-income people living in the Boston area. I am excited to work in the field of legal aid because it is an arena in which real positive change is achieved. At VLP, I get to interact directly with clients in need and help provide them with services they desperately need. VLP is not only working towards an abstract, far away goal; they make real, tangible change in people’s lives every single day. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have access to legal representation and advice regardless of their financial situation. Justice should not come with a price tag. Additionally, VLP’s work relates to my academic interests at Brandeis, where I study Politics and Legal Studies. At VLP, I can further my academic and occupational pursuits in a manner that helps people in my community.
I am working in VLP’s Housing Unit, which primarily aids people facing eviction. These clients face a massive uphill battle brought on by a number of injustices. The Boston area has a severe shortage of affordable housing and therefore, the clients VLP aids with their eviction cases often need to stay in their current unit because they are unlikely to find another one in their same area. Furthermore, landlords are often more likely to be able to afford an attorney than tenants, giving them a strong advantage in a legal dispute. More information about the issues faced by VLP’s clients can be seen from the screenshot below of a virtual training I completed.
As an intern at VLP, I have the opportunity to help rectify these injustices. My role in the Housing Unit will involve conducting intake interviews with clients to collect information about their housing predicament. This information is then passed on to an attorney who will do what they can to aid the client in their case. During the time when clients meet with attorneys—meetings VLP calls “clinics”—I will help attorneys draft legal documents pertinent to the client’s case. So far, I have only shadowed document drafting and intakes, but I am excited about the prospect of doing it myself.
Another facet of VLP’s Housing Unit is a program called Lawyer for the Day, which is run out of the MA Eastern Housing Court. This program trains and connects volunteer, non-VLP attorneys with clients in need of representation. I will be attending this program for the first time on July 5. I am excited about this opportunity because it will allow me to attend the courthouse in person. Most of my internship has taken place on Zoom. Although this can be convenient, I feel that I will be able to learn much more through in person experiences.
Overall, I am inspired by VLP’s mission and practices and I am thrilled about the prospect of getting more involved with their work through hands-on experiences!