Q & A with Robin
Why did you choose to work with one of the clinics? And why did you choose the Civil Litigation Clinic?
I wanted to work in a clinic so that I could get hands-on experience working with clients and apply what I learn in the classroom. I came to law school knowing what field I want to work in, but not exactly sure if litigation was the right path for me to pursue, so the opportunity to explore this for two semesters is ideal. I also liked the idea of having a legal experience outside the Tower.
I chose the Asylum and Human Rights (AHR) Clinic, which is one of the Civil Litigation Clinics, because my background was in human rights, but largely had an academic, rather than 'practical' focus. I've taken courses on refugee law and wanted to learn more about exactly how immigration laws work in the U.S., so the AHR Clinic was a great fit.
What was your most memorable case and why?
The main case I've worked on so far involved two young people trying to get asylum in the U.S. I am constantly impressed by how much these clients have accomplished in the brief amount of time they've been in the U.S., and am amazed by their strength in overcoming severe hardship in their home country. The case required that we appear in court, which was a first for me, and luckily we succeeded in what we hoped to accomplish. My supervisor, colleague, clients and I were all so thrilled and it was a struggle to keep from skipping out of the courtroom or crying tears of joy before we got into the hall. Knowing that my work can actually help someone who has suffered so much makes working for the Clinic the most rewarding and fun experience in law school by far.
What is the importance of representing pro bono?
Even the most basic forms for immigration and asylum can be extremely complicated, and it's hard enough to fill them out in a way that is both honest and favorable to the client with some legal education. The clients I've worked with would not be able to pay for an attorney, and I expect that the process of applying for asylum or other forms of legal immigrant status could be extremely daunting and confusing without any help, particularly for younger clients. Also, asylum applicants need to explain in their application exactly how they were persecuted in their home country, or why they're afraid of being persecuted if they had to go back, and the client may not be able or willing to do this in the necessary detail without someone with legal experience who can ask them the necessary questions and help guide them through the asylum process.
What did you gain from participating in the program?
Before I started the Clinic I had never appeared before a judge, and presenting in court for even five minutes was valuable in helping me acclimate to the courtroom setting. I've also learned a tremendous amount about what forms of immigration relief are available, and how to apply for them, and I hope to use this knowledge next year and after graduation by continuing to work with clients seeking legal status pro bono.
What are your plans after BU Law?
I plan on working in international human rights law in some capacity, and am still figuring out what career in that field is right for me. The Clinic has helped me realize that one option might be to practice asylum law. I'm also interested in exploring a career on the policy side of asylum and human rights law, and in that event, the practical experience I've gained through the Clinic would hopefully help me make decisions that make sense in theory and on paper.
What advice would you give incoming students curious about clinical programs?
Talk to a few people who are in a clinic now or were in one last year. Everyone has different experiences depending on the clinic, their clients, their supervisor, etc. Even if you don't think you want to do litigation after graduating, still think about getting involved in a clinic; you won't know if it's for you until you try it, and the clinic is a great way to get a glimpse into what life is like as a 'real' lawyer.