For the aspiring public defenders like me, getting the opportunity to have your own clients is invaluable. The clinic gave us the chance to be with and fight for people in some of the most difficult situations of their life. I am especially grateful for all I learned about the immigration consequences and working with juveniles.
The immigration consequences that some of our clients faced highlight the importance for lawyers to think creatively about how to approach a client’s whole situation. It put our immigration system into perspective: a misdemeanor conviction (sometimes even minor, non-violent offenses or even the underlining acts) could rip a person from the home they have created, sometimes the only home they have actually known. Working to ensure that does not happen, to check the government’s power over a person’s liberty, helped me and my clients experience a little bit of “justice.” Likewise, working with the minors impressed upon me how knowing the child’s whole situation—family, school, friends, goals, hobbies—can help lawyers be better advocates. The future they do not yet know motivated me in those cases.