As a Law Clerk at DRO this summer, I advocated on behalf of people with disabilities in Oregon on a broad range of issues. I primarily worked in children’s’ advocacy in the areas of special education and rights of children in foster care. My work included drafting letters and complaints, speaking directly with clients or their parents, and reviewing and analyzing records. I was able to put the skills I have learned in law school, such as research, writing, and wading through complicated language, to the test. I feel that over the summer I learned where my strengths and weaknesses are and how to improve them. My time with DRO was an opportunity to see how the law works in the “real world” and what it takes to be a lawyer in the public interest field. It is at times taxing, both mentally and emotionally, but I always felt a sense of purpose and accomplishment when I finished projects, helped clients, or taught clients how to advocate for themselves. I truly enjoyed the work, learned first-hand about what it takes to be an advocate for a disadvantaged population, and feel as though I made a difference for those I served. I especially enjoyed walking clients through the process and providing the resources necessary for them to advocate for themselves. This could be through providing referrals, explaining laws, or even helping clients fill out forms. Although the role of a lawyer is to advocate, at times I believe it is important to educate others so that they may advocate for themselves and I appreciate that DRO focuses on this aspect.
Receiving the PILP stipend allowed me to work in a field with great meaning to me at an organization that shares in my goals and passion for working with people with disabilities. DRO strives to make Oregon a better and safer place for people with disabilities, and I was honored to contribute to their work. I could not have done so without the support PILP provided. Nonprofit organizations often do not have the funds to obtain the support and workforce they need. Similarly, law students are often unable to financially support themselves over a term if they are unable to secure paid employment, frequently because they wish to work in the public interest field. The PILP stipend provides both the organizations with the needed support and the law students with the opportunity to work in the field of their choice. Beyond this, the work I did with PILP throughout the last year was rewarding.