Friday August 31, 2012

Invaluable Hands-On Experience

3L Laura Peters shares the hands-on experience she received doing pro bono work with the Battered Women's Legal Advocacy Project in Minneapolis.

This summer, University of Dayton School of Law students provided legal assistance to the poor and marginalized members of society with support from the Lisa A. Kloppenberg Public Interest Award, which helps support volunteer internships of students working in public interest law. To be eligible for the award, students agree to work 200 hours in the public interest internship without pay or course credit.

Law student Laura Peters writes about her experience working for the Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project in Minneapolis.

By Laura Peters

This summer, I had the opportunity to work with the Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project (BWLAP) in Minneapolis, continuing after my externship as an unpaid volunteer with the assistance of the Lisa A. Kloppenberg Public Interest Award.

The nonprofit organization primarily offers victims of domestic abuse legal assistance over the phone, as it pertains to a variety of legal matters. In addition, through a state-funded grant, the organization funds attorneys in northern Minnesota who work specifically on domestic abuse cases. These grant-funded attorneys are important because without the grant many residents in those regions would not receive the legal advice or advocacy they so desperately need.

My primary duty while working with BWLAP was to research Minnesota case law from the prior calendar year and write case summaries. My research efforts and case summaries are used to compile a “New Laws” reference book. This reference book is provided to domestic abuse advocates from around Minnesota during a three-day training session held in August each year.

While at times it was a tedious task, it gave me the opportunity to gain significant knowledge in the area of family law in Minnesota and to better understand its similarities and differences to family law in Ohio. Additionally, I was motivated knowing my efforts would provide advocates, and in turn domestic abuse victims, legal knowledge they would not receive otherwise. My research efforts helped to further hone my researching skills — skills that I surely will take with me as I continue my academic career and begin my professional career.

I also had the opportunity to attend various phone conferences with my field supervisor. These conferences allowed me to gain insight as to what it takes to successfully operate a nonprofit; the type of legal advice BWLAP was able to provide; and the necessary procedures a lawyer must take when working within the legal system.

I also gained first-hand experience with some of the pitfalls of the legal system, including the statutory restraints preventing a domestic abuse victim from having a harassment restraining order renewed, among others.

Overall, the lessons and knowledge I learned this summer while working in the BWLAP office were invaluable. I will continue to use this knowledge as I complete my last year at UDSL and as I embark on my journey as an attorney.

For more information, contact Bob Mihalek, communication specialist at the University of Dayton School of Law, at 937-229-4683 or