After my first year, I applied for a summer fellowship through New England Law | Boston’s Center for Law and Social Responsibility. I did my fellowship at Immigration Legal Services at the Esperanza Center—Catholic Charities of Baltimore, and was supervised by New England Law alumna Adonia Simpson. I loved the nonprofit environment. I was unsure what I was doing at first, but I became confident in my work.
I enjoyed working with clients who were very appreciative of what we were doing for them. While I was working on forms and petitions, one of the attorneys in the office said, “Bilal, if Adonia gives you an assignment, it is because she believes you have the skills and the ability to do it.” To me there was no greater learning experience. It gave me confidence and forged my path in my legal career, where I hope to continue to work on behalf of people with limited means.
In my second year, I enrolled in the school’s Public Interest Law Seminar and Clinic and chose a placement with Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), at the Elder Law and Disability Unit. I worked with elderly clients who needed help restoring SSI, SSDI, and other benefits. I enjoyed working at GBLS and I stayed as a volunteer for the next semester, earning the school’s Public Service Transcript Notation.
My clients included people who could barely travel and would require my supervisor and I to visit them at their homes. They had to phone in to hearings due to their myriad of illnesses. Even though what I was doing might have seemed minor at times it had a huge impact on the lives of my clients, especially those who could barely help themselves.
In the fall of my senior year, I took the Immigration Law Clinic and worked at a private firm. I found the experience invaluable but wanted to return to the public sector. In my final semester, with the assistance of Professor Engler, the school’s clinic director, I obtained another volunteer placement, this time at the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) in the consumer protection division. In this area I assisted indigent clients in limited representation for debt collection issues.
Working there I could see the stress on the clients' faces, especially the ones with limited or no means of support. I worked with clients directly, conducting intake interviews and teaching them about potential defenses. If possible, we would represent them in trial. The best part was their glee when they left after obtaining the relief that they desperately needed. With my help, we used the law to protect them.
The most rewarding experience I have had in law school was doing public interest and pro bono work. I hope to continue doing pro bono work in the future because the experience and reward are invaluable.