NHLA welcomes 2015 summer interns
"For me, the point of getting a legal education is to help other people. That’s why I went to law school.”
New Hampshire Legal Assistance recently welcomed four new interns for the summer, who will be assigned to different NHLA offices around the state, and will have the opportunity to attend court with our advocates, help with research and assist clients. The four students took some time to explain why they are interested in civil legal aid.
Penina Wallace is a New Hampshire native, having grown up in Barrington. She, and intern Madison Fiedler of Des Moines, Iowa are both students at UNH School of Law, and members of the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program.
Penina previously worked as an intern with the state Division of Children, Youth, and Families, and saw first-hand parents struggling to navigate legal and bureaucratic systems without legal help.
“It’s really difficult in any situation where you’re not represented, to stand up in court and explain your side of the story when you don’t really understand the legal process.” she said. “Working at NHLA, we’re helping people who otherwise couldn’t afford an attorney or someone to speak for them.”
Madison grew up helping her mother, who is an employment lawyer back in Iowa.
At first, she thought the filing and paperwork she had to organize was boring, but doing client in-take work changed her mind.
“Talking to people about how they lost their job and they don’t know how they’re going to pay their bills, I thought I was just filing papers, but in reality you’re having an impact on those lives."
Her experience inspired her to become a lawyer, too.
“I’m really aware of the struggles of low-income clients who maybe have solid cases, maybe were wronged, but they can’t afford to get legal help or their problem can’t be fixed in a way that’s going to give a lawyer enough money from it to take the case. That discrepancy is so vastly unfair in our society, because their case is still worth being heard. I don’t think it's fair that a corporation or a company or somebody with a lot of power deserves to be heard over someone else who doesn’t have that power.”
Bryce Linden, from Macon Georgia, studies at Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law.
He spent last summer working at a district attorney’s office, and sought out a civil legal aid internship this year to experience a broader spectrum of the legal system. He decided to study law as a career where he could help people in need, he said.
“Not everybody can afford a lawyer and that’s one of the most unfortunate things in this country,” he said.
Sarah Merrill, a Mississippi native studying law at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, came to NHLA to build on her previous experience in family law at a small law firm in Virginia and at the Virginia Poverty Law Center.
At the center, she worked with clients with limited English-speaking skills who had been brought to the country as victims of human trafficking.
“Their stories were horrific. It really sticks with you,” she said. “For me, the point of getting a legal education is to help other people. That’s why I went to law school.”