Justice for the Poor: One Law Clerk’s Experience

TRLA staff helped residents of Canutillo, Texas with their legal issues during a special experience for summer law clerk Jose Herrera.

TRLA staff helped residents of Canutillo, Texas with their legal issues during a special experience for summer law clerk Jose Herrera.

Every summer Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) hosts approximately fifty current law school students as they work for low-income clients across the state. Summer law clerk and native El Pasoan Jose Herrera (Thurgood Marshall School of Law) spent his summer working with TRLA’s El Paso staff on several projects, including providing education and outreach to low-wage workers in the area.

An integral part of the work done by TRLA’s El Paso office includes providing free legal services to citizens in outlying rural areas. In early June, Jose joined a team from TRLA in Canutillo, Texas to perform that type of outreach.

With a population of approximately 5,000 people, Canutillo is a small town just outside of El Paso. Because it is often difficult for underprivileged people to secure transportation to legal aid offices or outreach events, people in rural areas are often drastically underserved. So, rather than having people go to the El Paso TRLA office, Jose joined TRLA attorney Joseph Veith and paralegal Carmen Dominguez in traveling to Canutillo to help members of the community with their legal issues.

While there, a group of about twenty-five members of the community listened to presentations on family law and tax law. Participants were then invited to sit down with TRLA representatives for one on one intake sessions. The group was grateful to have the members of TRLA there to help and guide them with respect to the legal issues that affect their everyday lives.

“This experience was more than fantastic,” said Jose. “Not only have I given back to the community that has given me so much, but I have gained a deeper understanding of the types of legal issues that poor communities face and how difficult it can be for those communities to get the help they need.”

At the end of the summer, Jose looked back on his trip to Canutillo as one of many defining moments in his summer as a TRLA law clerk. It was one of many experiences during his summer at TRLA that has shaped the way he views how the law can help the poor.

Added Jose, “This summer will forever change the way I see things.”

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