Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
My summer at Legal Aid Services of Oregon’s (LASO) Portland Regional Office was extremely rewarding. I was immediately trained and placed in their Domestic Violence Program (DVP) to give advice on how to file for and receive an abuse-prevention restraining order. In an ideal world, organizations like LASO would have the staff and the funds to provide each client with representation when their restraining orders are contested, but unfortunately, we live in another place. Due to these constraints, we often had to stop at explaining the hearing process and give them thorough advice on how to present their facts in a way that would meet the qualifications of the order they were seeking. I was also able to participate in several cases through legal research, document drafting, and client interviews. These cases dealt with a wide variety of issues, such as landlord-tenant law (e.g., evictions, fair housing, repairs), public benefits (e.g., Section 8 voucher terminations, child support assignments), and family law (i.e., custody, divorce, restraining orders).
The clients that come into the office rarely present easy cases, and often they are faced with issues far beyond the scope of LASO’s capacities. Even so, the attorneys and staff deal with these individuals with patience, empathy, and creativity—often going above and beyond their duty to try to give the client an answer to a problem. Often this meant tackling unfamiliar and complex statutes and case law, dealing with uncooperative opposing parties and counsel, or getting close and personal with the inside of a client’s moldy drywall. While I gained significant substantive legal experience at LASO, I also saw the importance of being a good person as well as a good attorney.
Unfortunately, the legal system often falls short of providing vulnerable communities access to justice, but thankfully the attorneys and staff at organizations like LASO are passionate about bridging that gap. The PILP stipend not only allows students to engage in meaningful work and enhance their abilities as future lawyers, but it also provides worthy public interest groups with another tool through which to shift our legal system closer toward justice.