"…I have a lot to say about how my JusticeCorps experience motivates me to pursue a degree in law! Going into the program, and for a long time before, I knew that I wanted to go to law school and use that education to help people, but I wasn't sure in what realm of law.
Having worked in mostly family law I have learned some great skills that previous jobs did not teach me. I have always been confident in public speaking but the kind of communication that I needed for my position as a JusticeCorps volunteer was different from the type of speaking I had done before. Because of the often confusing and complicated wording and structure of many legal forms and legal process I learned how to explain procedures and give directions in many ways with great clarity. While some explanations are comprehendible for some people, those same explanations can be confusing for others. For this position I saw a great amount of Spanish-speaking clientele, which motivated me to learn Spanish. Although I have not been able to take Spanish formally, I did research, purchase books, and practice with Spanish-speaking peers in order to gain some understanding of the language to assist Spanish-speakers on my JusticeCorps site…
While working in JusticeCorps I was also employed at a elementary school in Oakland where I saw a great overlap between the effects of the law and courts on the lives of my students. I saw how the education these students were receiving, and their emotional and social interactions with others was greatly affected by many of the same family-law issues I was learning about during my JC internship. I saw how the realms of law and education greatly overlap and often directly influence each other. At times, many of the parents of students in my classroom were ones that I helped as a JusticeCorps volunteer. Although I maintained anonymity in my interactions with these parents outside of the JusticeCorps program I was able to see how their family-law related issues affected their education and education of their children. Through this I was able to see how exposure to violence, familial hardships, and divorce can greatly affect students' desires to learn, and limitations on the resources of education that may be available in other circumstances…”
The LA JusticeCorps program shared the following thoughts from a member who served at the Pomona Self-Help Center:
"The experiences that I have gained as a member of JusticeCorps are incomparable and unmeasurable in worth. I have received individualized training and feedback from attorneys and paralegals. I have explored the court system from the file room to the behind the judge's bench. I have witnessed the lifespan of cases from its very inception and filing to its trial and judgment. And through the personal attention of our supervising attorneys, I've learned more about the culture and practice of law/public service than I could have learned without being immersed in it myself. When I began I knew very little about the field of law meaning that I could not maneuver through it myself nor understand what that career path would entail, but through the program I have come to a place where I can file civil cases and also understand the role/life of various legal professionals. I applied for JusticeCorps because I believed in its mission and over the past year of service, there has not been a single day that I regretted that decision.
Additionally, JusticeCorps afforded me many special opportunities and relationships apart from the regular program. I have met our current presiding judge, the Honorable Judge McCoy twice and spoke to him personally both times. I attended the 2009 Legislator's Luncheon as a JusticeCorps member and had the great honor of hearing California Assembly member and Judiciary Committee Chair Mike Feuer speak. At this same luncheon, I met the Community Relations Director Camilo Cruz who recommended the State Capital Fellowship. I then applied with a recommendation letter from a JusticeCorps program coordinator and was accepted to my first choice placement with Mr. Camilo Cruz for the year 2009-2010 as a Judicial Administration Fellow. Even after I completed my hours, I was invited to represent JusticeCorps at the 2009 Neighborhood Legal Services recognition ceremony where I had the honor of presenting the awards to many public servants I have to come admire such as California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and Congressman Adam Schiff.
JusticeCorps was a program through which I had the opportunity to serve and interact with my community in a tangible and meaningful way. I enjoyed each day and each component of the program, because I believe in its cause and in my contribution. Meanwhile, it afforded me a stimulating but safe environment for personal growth from my character to professional goals. JusticeCorps was also a program through which I had the opportunity to serve and interact with my role models and heroes from my admirable supervisors and colleagues to the presiding judge and elected officials."
From an LA JusticeCorps member, about his experience on the MLK National Day of Service at Drew Middle School, where members helped paint murals on campus:
Being in JusticeCorps one can help a litigant but never really know the final outcome of their services given. Did my services actually allow this person to have a fair shot at getting their case heard? This thought perplexes me constantly. My experience at Drew Middle School was nothing but sheer satisfaction. I was able to see the fruits of my labor before my own eyes. I could see the parts of the walls, which I had painted, and feel fulfilled. I was able to experience different people from different places, and with different worldviews working together towards the same goal. It was an honor and a pleasure to be part of an effort to enrich the lives of those who are in need. Thank you so much for this opportunity that I will selfishly keep in my heart forever.
From an LA JusticeCorps member who served at the Van Nuys Self-Help Access Center and attended UCLA:
Though I have participated in many extracurricular programs throughout college, I am most proud of the work I am doing with the JusticeCorps program. The most enjoyable part of being a JusticeCorps volunteer, in my opinion, is the time spent working with the litigant (a person representing he/herself in court). When I am explaining why the Court's process works the way it does, or the different choices the litigant has at each juncture and the consequences of each, it makes my work worthwhile when I see the litigant actually taking an active role in preparing their case. The idea of interacting with the court can be intimidating for those who come to the Van Nuys Self-Help Legal Access Center for assistance, as they often face significant language and educational barriers. My hope is that my contribution at the Center will somehow empower litigants to feel as if they have a voice and that their legal issue(s) will be respectfully heard. Perhaps the most important way that this internship has changed my perspective is that I am far more convinced that I am doing the right thing by pursuing a career in public interest law. Being a JusticeCorps volunteer has galvanized my sense of purpose to promote equal access to the justice system for citizens who are unable to afford legal representation.
From an LA JusticeCorps Member who served at the Inglewood Self-Help Legal Access Center and attended UCLA:
Since September 2006 when I joined JusticeCorps and I started to work at the self-help clinic in Inglewood I've been able to help people who did not have the financial means to pay a lawyer, yet they needed help filling out forms. I saw people come in tears and leave with smiles because someone finally took the time to help them and explain to them the legal process of their case and translate the legal jargon into common English. I had never felt so useful and human until I came to JusticeCorps. The bottom line is that JusticeCorps members make a great difference everyday.
My Volunteer Year
As a prospective law student, immersing oneself in the field in any way possible is an important step to take before making a final decision to progress into the formal study of jurisprudence. Endless statistics of first-year dropout rates and a subsequent hesitation to dive into law school fresh out of UCLA motivated me to search for positions within the legal system that I could manage while undertaking a full workload at school. Additionally, a devotion to social justice and humanitarian work led me to seek out employment in which I could give back, while growing personally.
JusticeCorps was and continues to be the perfect fit. Not only am I immersed in the legal system, working in the courtroom itself, but I also provide indigent litigants with indispensable legal information. Without the few existing programs providing aid and information to litigants, cases become stuck in the legal bureaucracy and never find resolution. These legal predicaments can have potentially disastrous effects on litigants who may be attempting to file a restraining order against an abusive neighbor or divorce an unstable spouse. The centers and court workers who provide aid to these litigants perform a noble task and JusticeCorps volunteers are able to provide support to these crucial figures in the justice system.