The program seeks to give the kids at DJJ a better understanding about the legal system and a bit of practical knowledge of the law. Most recently, another law student and I taught a course to a group of about ten guys about rules, laws, and values. The idea was to develop by discussion what a law should do (e.g., protect citizens) and how it should do so (e.g., fairly).
The most surprising part of the program was the interest and participation we got from the guys in the program. All of the guys had first hand knowledge of how the criminal justice system worked and had many differing opinions about it. However, most had not really thought about why the system functions as it does, and its goals.
Do you see a future with pro bono service?
I have truly enjoyed the pro bono work that I have done, and I will continue to stay involved, in one way or another, in public service. I am pursuing, almost exclusively, jobs in public service. I have enjoyed working as a public defender in my clinic, and hope to continue in that type of work as an actual attorney.
Right now, I am involved in the CHOICES Program. I first learned about this program after receiving a flier in my mailbox at school. I have not done any other pro bono projects while in law school however I have been greatly satisfied with my decision to do CHOICES.
What lesson have you taken from your pro bono service?
I think the most valuable lesson I have learned is “not to judge a book by its cover.” While this sounds cliché, I think it is the perfect way to describe my participation with CHOICES. Initially, I was a little hesitant about how the juveniles would react to the program. My encounters with the juveniles put my fears to rest. They were a bright group of young men with creative ideas and goals for the future. Not only were they receptive to the program, but they were also a joy to be around and they taught me many things that I did not know.
Has your pro bono service changed your idea of law or pro bono?
Not really. I had always been service oriented and have enjoyed helping others. The one thing that I can say is that I will be more willing to take a chance and volunteer in areas outside of my comfort zone.
Do you see yourself in private practice or public interest?
At this point, I do not plan to go into private practice; I would prefer to work in a public interest setting. If I do end up in private practice, I will definitely volunteer as a pro bono attorney. Through my experiences, I have tried to encourage other law students to participate in pro bono programs. We are all extremely busy but I still think it is important to share my stories and hopefully, others can find time in their schedule to help someone else. It really does offer a nice break from lives as law students and personally, it reminds me of why I decided to attend law school.