With Covid-19 creating changes to operations at our firm this summer, our Summer Associates program went ahead with a shortened schedule. Our three participants were Alexis Walker from Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law; Madison McNulty from Temple University Beasley School of Law; and Lauren Bess from Rutgers Law School.
The redesigned program offered our Summer Associates opportunities to volunteer within the community. Given the current environment and so many people in need, we wanted to lend our associates to community groups with a focus on legal issues in need of volunteers.
Alexis Walker spent her time working with Equal Access Legal Services. The organization helps people who don’t have access to quality, affordable legal representation. Alexis spent much of her time working on a specific asylum case that required her to produce a 30-page brief with a matching, extensive exhibit list.
Madison McNulty and Lauren Bess volunteered with the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (“PLSE”) Pardon Project which is a new initiative to help low-income Philadelphians clean up their criminal records. Those “… records present a significant obstacle to employment for thousands of Philadelphians. Because of structural and cultural inequities, a criminal history disadvantages people of color and the poor.”1 Our Summer Associates aided in reviewing the over 2000 cases of those individuals who did not receive a pardon and organizing the data and trends that they discovered. They presented their findings to the Secretary of the Board of Pardons for Pennsylvania. This important research informs the leaders of this organization and helps further its mission to “…advocate for a more equitable social environment for those with criminal records, including expanding access to employment and social services.”2
Lauren Bess also had an opportunity to join the Volunteer Up Legal Clinic. It provides legal assistance and services to economically disadvantaged clients in South Jersey. She had the chance to conduct virtual meetings with clients to determine their specific legal needs. After assessing the legal issues of each client, she made an appropriate referral to a pro bono attorney who practices that specific type of law. She saw clients needing help with family law, criminal law, and landlord/tenant matters.
All of our Summer Associates were excited to learn by doing and found the redesigned summer experience quite valuable. We wish them the best of luck as they return to their schools to complete their final year.
1 and 2: PLSEPhilly.org