We’re back with another guest post for Summer Series 2020! Summer Series is a way to learn from other Lawtinas about their summers and to see all the ways you can use your law degree. Today we hear from Nadia, a returning guest writer and rising 3L who is doing remote work in the Public Guardian’s Office. While she is interested in being an immigration attorney, Nadia has taken on a position that is increasing her advocacy and client counseling in unique ways. Her ability to remain flexible in this new normal is the tool every Lawtina needs in her arsenal. Excited to hear from Nadia and the ways she’s acclimated to this new process!
Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, I consider myself lucky for even getting a chance to complete a remote internship this summer. I found out about my law clerkship earlier this year after I attended the Midwest Public Interest Law Career Conference in Chicago. Even though I had interviewed with various public interest organizations that day, I knew I would be a perfect fit for the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian. The office has three divisions devoted to advocating for the rights of abused and neglected families. I was selected to be a law clerk for the Juvenile Division which provides legal representation to thousands of children in Cook County who are wards of the court. In this division, it is essential that attorneys, caseworker advocates, investigators, paralegals, and other support staff work together for the children’s wellbeing. I also decided to intern for the Cook County Public Guardian Office to get more familiar with attorneys in the Chicago area. Considering that I’m currently a rising 3L at Southern Illinois University School of Law, I knew I would have to network earlier for any future employment opportunities once I graduate in 2021.
The Public Guardian’s Summer 2020 Remote Law Clerk Program is the first of its kind. Each law clerk is assigned an attorney mentor who invites them to participate in Zoom court hearings, contact clients through video interviews, and work on writing/research projects. None of the law clerks and attorneys are physically in the office together because of the risks and the inability to socially distance in such a closed space, though some businesses have been able to utilize modular office trailers to improve distancing which might become an option for us in the future. But for the moment we are lucky that we can still meet weekly via Microsoft Teams for training sessions, discussions, and “happy” hours. It’s a good job we decided to implement this type of technological software and Learn More before circumstances changed. Surprisingly, it has really made a difference to our productivity. My daily tasks can range anywhere from attending Zoom court hearings to researching current case law on the Juvenile Court Act.
With my current remote law clerkship, I have seen how the child welfare system fails even when it was designed to protect children. While I spent most of my 2L year deciphering new case law, I found the most rewarding classes to be the ones that addressed the problems of vulnerable communities in our country. I did not know it yet, but my spring semester courses adequately prepared me for the work I was about to do this summer. I took mental health law, civil rights law, and administrative law. I distinctly remember thinking in class how I could apply what I was learning to real-life scenarios. The theoretical side of law school might be the most challenging one, but I believe the practicum side of law school is the one that defines you. I think ultimately, the greatest lesson I have learned so far this summer is that the measure of a society is truly found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens such as children. In light of this pandemic, the legal field has been forced to rapidly adapt and also address the socioeconomic issues their clients must now face. I still have my dream of becoming an immigration attorney, which began about 10 years ago when my mom started her process for naturalization, but for now, I believe that I can make the biggest difference helping those most vulnerable.