A Summer in Review: One Law Clerk’s Experience

From Catherine Gail Stanford, TRLA Law Clerk Summer 2009:

I had little idea what was in store for me when I started my summer clerkship at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid after receiving a Litigation Fellowship from the State Bar of Texas.  I knew that TRLA provided excellent legal services and that they worked hard to represent both worthy and vulnerable clients.  But I quickly learned that the attorneys at TRLA are much more:  they are counselors, therapists, friends, mentors and champions of those they represent – both in and out of the courtroom.  Receiving the Litigation Fellowship and having the opportunity to work with such an outstanding organization has truly been an honor and privilege.

I came to TRLA in hopes of working in all types of law, but with a specific interest in domestic violence and sexual assault litigation.    Throughout my ten weeks, I had an opportunity to work on many different issues from immigration to family law to property and tax issues.  Beyond research, I was able to get hands-on experience in domestic violence litigation.  The attorneys at TRLA went above and beyond to involve me in cases.  Often, I had the chance to follow a case from start to finish and get personally involved with the client and their problem.  My workload in litigation included drafting crosses, directs, pleadings, orders and looking into specific legal and evidentiary questions that might affect our case.  Nearly everyday, an attorney would stick their head in my office and ask if I wanted to come to court, a client interview, community outreach or the weekly case review.   From day one, I was welcomed as more than just a clerk, but a part of the team.  I was able to watch first-hand how attorneys can make a difference in the lives of others, and the important role that legal aid serves.

Looking back at my summer, I am certain that the time I spent at TRLA has affected my life in a tremendous way.  I have become a better student, researcher, thinker and person.  I have had the chance to watch just how much preparation, hard work and talent can affect the outcome of a case.   The cases I worked on were often shocking.  Cases of abuse, rape, neglect and victimization were a day-to-day reality for me.  It was heart wrenching.  Yet somehow, the attorneys at TRLA pieced together these terrible situations and worked hard to fight for these clients- when no else could or had.   I was continually humbled by the work that they did and the spirit that they carried with them each day.

On the last day of my clerkship, I was asked what I took away from the experience.  The question is easy to answer: working at TRLA made me excited to join the legal profession and inspired to use my education for good.  I learned valuable legal skills and lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life.  Without the Litigation Section of the State Bar of Texas, I would have never had this amazing opportunity.  I am forever grateful to have had such a rewarding and challenging summer clerkship.  Thank you.

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