NHLA welcomes 2016 summer interns
New Hampshire Legal Assistance recently welcomed six new interns for the summer, law students 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 students took some time off during their day-long orientation to explain why they are interested in civil legal aid.
Hannah Carlson of Portsmouth is a student at Suffolk Law School, and originally thought she wanted to be a prosecutor. She’s turned her attention to civil legal aid after working at HAVEN, a violence prevention and support services agency in Portsmouth, and at the Strafford County Family Justice Center, where she met Erin Jasina, an NHLA advocate who works with survivors of domestic violence.
“I’ve gone back and forth a lot about what kind of work I want to do, but I am committed to working with people with low income levels. I want to help people who don’t necessarily think help is available,” she said.
Yasin Alsaidi and April Brees are both students at Vermont Law School.
Alsaidi comes to the legal practice after a career in higher education, most recently as dean of admissions at New England College.
“You get to a point in life, you’re tired of having unfulfilled dreams. Even if you have successes and failures, you realize you have just one chance. It’s about, what can I contribute? I felt I could contribute more with a law degree,” he said.
As for this summer, “I know I am not going to come out of here knowing how to make really excellent coffee, or how to make copies without smudges,” he said. “There is a lot of need here. I want to know the actual experience of working as a lawyer and I know I’ll get that here.”
Brees was also drawn to NHLA’s reputation of hands-on work for summer interns.
Originally from Seattle, she has experience working in the administrative offices of courts, in the legislature and in private law firms, but has decided she wants to pursue public interest law.
“My passion is social justice, and access to justice and representation for people who don’t have a voice. Here, the conversations all around me will broaden my view of the cases i’m working on.”
Three of the 2016 summer interns are students at University of New Hampshire School of Law in Concord: Patience Morrow, who is originally from Massachusetts; Beth Ambury, a native of Ontario, Canada, and Henniker native Katie Muzzy.
Morrow has wanted to be a lawyer since she was barely in middle school, she said.
“My family has always been on the poorer side. We benefited from a lot of the programs that (legal aid agencies) work with. Being able to give back to those kinds of programs was always something I wanted to do,” she said.
During her time at UNH Law, she worked in the consumer law clinic, helping people with bankruptcy, foreclosure and other cases.
“After having done the clinic,” she said, “I wanted to make sure I was doing hands on work this summer as much as possible, which is why I wanted to come to NHLA.”
Ambury sought out the NHLA internship on the strong recommendation of a professor at UNH Law.
“She said I really need to focus on public interest law, because here, the principal goal is to help the client and there really isn’t any issue of money clouding the picture,” she said. “The projects that are tackled here go toward solving the bigger picture, not always just solving one divorce case, for example.”
Before entering law school, Muzzy spent a semester as the legislative intern with the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She became interested in work helping survivors of intimate partner violence after a college sociology course on family dynamics, and volunteer work with survivors at the YWCA.
“It’s something that affects everyone. It pervades beyond race and gender and class, and you can’t assume you know people’s stories, which is something I saw at the Y. You never knew who was going to come in and what their needs would be,” she said.
Working at NHLA this summer, she hopes to gain a deeper understanding of how access to housing and benefits affects domestic violence survivors, including elders: “All of these issues are interrelated.”
NHLA is a statewide nonprofit law firm representing low-income and elderly New Hampshire residents who cannot afford a lawyer. Through advice, referrals, direct representation and systemic advocacy, NHLA works to improve the lives of low-income and other vulnerable New Hampshire residents by providing access to justice. NHLA maintains offices in Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Manchester and Portsmouth.