I belong in a clinic

Far and away the best part of law school, for me, is the part where I get to pretend to be a real lawyer. In Massachusetts, students who have taken Evidence are eligible to be 3:03 certified, which means we can represent government clients or low-income clients, as long as we are under the supervision of a “real” attorney.

The BU civil litigation clinic, aka the Housing, Employment, Family and Disability Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services, has allowed me some exciting opportunities to exercise my 3:03 certification. Most recently, I worked on a housing court case.

The case lasted most of last semester and into this one, but that’s just how these things go. The workload was rarely overwhelming, but it did consume my thoughts pretty often. It didn’t always look so good. We went to court four times.

Boston’s Brooke Courthouse

 

Boston housing court is an interesting place: Hundreds of people pile into court for the roll call every Thursday morning (234 cases were on the docket last week!); some people don’t show up at all and have their cases defaulted or dismissed. A tenant with representation seems like an exception rather than the norm. Same-day legal aid is available, but many people represent themselves. I can’t imagine how intimidating that must be.

My first time at court was a mix of “Finally, I’m here!” and “Oh my goodness, this is chaos!”

After that, it was “Let’s get on with it!”

By my fourth time, I was ready to get a result. So was my client. Unfortunately, our options were limited. After following the landlord’s attorney around for hours, my diligent clinical supervisor and client by my side, I finally got a conversation started.

I had developed a package that would create an ideal result for my client. It wasn’t exactly what opposing counsel had in mind. I offered up my next-best package, cautiously. She bit. We wrote out an agreement in the margins of a boilerplate settlement agreement, and the other attorney went off to work on another one of her dozens of cases.

As soon as she was gone, my client gave me a high-five!

In legal aid, we don’t get paid. Her smile and rare show of enthusiasm were more than enough reward.

I have plenty of other cases, each with their own complications and obstacles. I am not counting on any more high-fives, but I am counting on lots more hard work and surprises.

It’s my job, and I love it.

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