Life in legal aid

It’s been a while since my last writing. Times like these, I question whether I should keep this up, whether anyone is benefiting from it. But a few weeks ago, a friend told me “You’ve been killing it on Facebook, man!” So I’m going to keep it up.

I finished up my time in San Francisco and moved back to Chicago for my second internship. I am at LAF, a large legal aid agency. We provide legal help for poor people who can’t afford an attorney. I’m in the Housing practice group; we primarily help people with eviction defense and subsidy termination. Many of our clients are on limited income, on Social Security or other supportive programs. Many of them are unfamiliar with their rights as tenants, and are easily taken advantage of by landlords and government agencies.

I have done some legal work, like drafting motions and stepping up in court. But some of it has been advocacy of a different kind. Earlier this week I was helping a client move out of her apartment. She has issues with her current unit, and desperately needs to leave. She needed money to pay for the security deposit for a new apartment, but was living on a very limited income. She needed the money soon, or would end up losing the new apartment. With an attorney, I helped her file an application for a grant. I ended up staying up to 1:30 AM last night working on the application, but it finally got approved. She will have the money she needs to move out of a bad situation and not become homeless.

Legal aid work can be emotionally draining. There is never enough time to get everything done. We can only do so much to help a client, and it can feel like frantically applying minor fixes to the gaping maw of poverty that surrounds us. But this is why I went to law school, why I want to be a lawyer. I want to use my skills to advocate for the vulnerable and impoverished. I want to help them stand for their rights and live with dignity and honor. Not because they are inferior, not because they are helpless, not because they are lowly. But because they are worthy, because they are valued, because they are important. Because they are loved.

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