June 01, 2008

Elizabeth Oshel

Legal Aid Services of Oregon, Portland, OR

Legal Aid Services of Oregon (Portland, OR)

This summer, my PILP stipend enabled me to work for the Multnomah County office of Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO). LASO provides free civil legal services to people who can’t afford a private lawyer. I was very excited to work for LASO because I knew I would be able to have an immediate impact on clients’ lives and get hands on experience in many substantive areas of law.

Throughout the summer, I researched and wrote memos on constitutional issues, restraining orders and the Violence Against Women Act, domestic torts, and Portland’s sit-lie ordinance, and assisted with research and fact-finding in eviction cases, among many other issues. I spent much of my time doing client intake for the Domestic Violence Project, interviewing clients about sometimes very volatile and frightening situations and advising them on how to obtain and uphold restraining orders and stalking orders. My job was to place those clients most unable to represent themselves with pro bono attorneys for representation at their hearings.

One of the most exciting moments in the summer came when a group of tenants walked into the office, needing help with their landlord. That meeting turned into a client group of nearly twenty tenants facing eviction from a low-rent downtown building. I interviewed the clients, toured the building, prepared affidavits, worked on a trial memo, and assisted in preparations to file for a temporary injunction against the landlord. It was a very exciting case, made even more thrilling by the negotiations and settlement that gave each tenant the money to move, preventing many from returning to homelessness.

I also worked on LASO’s pro bono volunteer attorney projects, reaching out to members of the private bar. I developed a new scheduling system, and spoke with dozens of local attorneys who donate many hours of valuable time to the pro bono projects of Legal Aid. I worked with attorneys and clients at the Night Clinic two nights a week and scheduled attorneys and clients for Pro Se Assistance meetings.

My position with LASO and the funding provided by PILP gave me a lot of valuable and practical legal skills that will help me through the rest of my career. The experience was an invaluable opportunity, for which I am extremely grateful. I came into law school interested in public interest work, and because of PILP and LASO, I am not even more dedicated to continue this work.