How did you get involved with the Feerick Center? How did you choose CLARO?
As a 1L, during orientation, I saw a poster for CLARO for the public service day. It looked like a good service opportunity for me because I had worked in finance before law school, so I thought consumer debt might be something related to my experience. I also thought it looked like a good opportunity to meet people and get involved with the community.
Describe the kind of work you are involved with at CLARO.
CLARO is a program that utilizes volunteer attorneys and students to assist people in New York City Civil Court. The volunteer lawyers give advice to people who have been sued for a consumer debt problem, usually credit card debt. Often, the CLARO clients have just been sued and are not sure what to do about it. Sometimes people don’t know about the lawsuit until they have a bank account frozen or their wages garnished.
At CLARO, I conduct the initial interview to make sure that the client’s issue is within the scope of the program. Next, I explain the basics about their lawsuit—where they are in the legal process or what the attorney can help them with. I help the lawyers to keep things running smoothly. I also do some training and outreach to Fordham Law School students to help keep CLARO staffed.
What is your favorite thing about working at CLARO?
Working at CLARO reminds me of the reason why I went to law school in the first place: to use the information that we learn to help people who may not have access to the same education. In CLARO, we level the playing field. It’s all about access to justice. The plaintiffs always have a lawyer, so it’s really meaningful be able to provide legal assistance to unrepresented defendants. At CLARO, I feel like I’m contributing an important role to the justice system. I’ve had so many great client experiences, but what stands out most to me is how relieved and empowered they feel after they’ve seen a volunteer attorney.
Is there anything you would tell other Fordham students to get them involved with CLARO?
Law school classes, especially in the beginning, are so theoretical; it’s not really clear what it is that lawyers do or what your role is supposed to be. Getting hands-on experience with people who are being sued helped solidify that for me. At CLARO, you get to sit down with a lawyer and watch them work. You can feel the purpose behind the theory of law school. It also helped me become comfortable interviewing people. 1Ls don’t get the same kind of practical experience in their classes.
What impact, if any, has your work with CLARO had on your life?
In terms of professional development, I’ve had the opportunity to meet amazing lawyers. It’s great to spend time with so many volunteer attorneys. I learned a lot about what lawyers do and it has been wonderful to be involved with so many great people. Feerick Center staff members have been incredible mentors to me. It’s truly inspiring to see their dedication and tireless work ethic.
Now I’m working in the Federal Tax Clinic at Lincoln Square Legal Services (Fordham Law’s nonprofit legal services provider). We help people with circumstances similar to those experienced by the clients at CLARO. I probably would not have known how much I would enjoy that kind of work without my CLARO experience. I’m not sure that I will be able to do pro bono work full time for the rest of my life, but I hope to continue volunteering after graduation.