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    Public Interest Award Means Hands-on Training

    This summer, University of Dayton School of Law students have been doing pro bono work by making legal services available to the poor and marginalized members of society. These students are supported by the Lisa A. Kloppenberg Public Interest Award, which come in the form of stipends to help pay for living expenses during the students’ internship.Public Interest Award recipient Jane Novick writes about her experience this summer.

    By Jane Novick

    I have been interning at Ohio Legal Rights Service (OLRS) in Columbus. This agency, in partnership with people with disabilities, is dedicated to the protection and advocacy of the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities. I chose to intern at OLRS because I plan on practicing disability law. I see this internship at a valuable way to fill in some of the gaps I have in that area. OLRS mainly focuses on helping a person with a disability live an independent life in the least restrictive environment possible.

    In order to fulfill their mission, OLRS employs attorneys as well as disability policy advocates. There appears to be a mutual respect for each other. I participated in a meeting in which both groups were present. The advocates needed specific legal information in order to help them with their work. The senior attorney was happy to comply as she regarded the advocates’ work as very necessary to accomplish the OLRS mission. In many offices there is a hierarchy among the employees, resulting in different treatment of employees. It has been very impressive to see how all the OLRS employees are treated the same. Consequently, it is a very cohesive and happy group of employees. The entire staff appear to be energized by the common mission of protecting and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. Thus, all employees are more willing to work hard in such an environment.

    There appears to be a strong and cohesive relationship among the attorneys. The newer attorneys can turn to the more senior ones for guidance. Attorneys who handle specific type of cases are willing to help another attorney handling a similar type of case. I had the opportunity to benefit from this situation. This month I am representing a client at an appeal hearing. In order to prepare for the hearing I was referred to one attorney that has represented clients at similar appeal hearings. The attorney explained to me the procedure and the timelines. In addition, she advised me how best to prepare my client. I also am working with a different attorney in analyzing the client’s documents and supporting materials. Although I will be the “attorney” in charge at the hearing there will be two attorneys with me to step in if I need help or guidance.

    In addition to the mentoring I am receiving, my supervising attorney is giving me assignments that have different deadlines. Sometimes I have to drop everything and complete a rush assignment. Other times I am juggling several cases at one time. I am also getting experience with many different types of legal issues. The subject matter and type of assignments have varied widely. For instance, I have been doing background reading in preparation for the writing of an amicus brief; researching whether the 6th Circuit has ever heard cases on a specific legal issue; preparing for an appeal hearing; and compiling legal guidelines for specific agencies.