I have had the absolute pleasure of working with members of marginalized communities on a micro level as a Maida Fellow last summer at Volunteer Lawyers for Justice and as a Drug Court intern at the Union County Vicinage. I have helped provide direct client/legal services to individuals for issues such as criminal record expungement, housing, mental health, bankruptcy, and much more. Each of the individuals I worked with were hurting in different ways. It was extremely rewarding to play a part in helping individuals who were enduring difficult times.
However, I could not help but notice broader structural issues ever-present in our society when assessing why the same types of individuals, from very similar communities, continue to struggle and seek legal aid. The shackles of structural inequality and systemic discrimination meant that marginalized communities on the ground, disproportionately people of color, would continue to hurt.
I was also a criminal justice major as an undergraduate at Rutgers Newark where my interest in criminal justice reform and police accountability originated. I always wanted to go to law school and enter the public interest space but I was unsure where my niche in public interest was. I am also the first person in my family to go to college and graduate college so I had almost no exposure to the law or legal jargon such as even what litigation was.
The ability to challenge these macro level issues inspired me to pursue a career in civil rights. I am not sure where exactly my niche in civil rights is – there are several issues I am passionate about such as protecting dissent/first amendment, police accountability, and voting rights - but I hope to use the law, specifically litigation, to advance the substantive changes required to address the issues the most vulnerable among us are facing.
This is where litigation comes into play. From afar, rules and procedure seemed tedious to me. However, Civil Procedure became one of my favorite classes during my 1L year. The class gave me insight into the technical aspects of litigation that are crucial to success. As a lifelong athlete who also coached soccer before law school, I really appreciate how procedural rules can be used to strategically succeed in various parts of a lawsuit. Once I entered law school and learned more about impact litigation and how it can be used to advance civil rights, that is when I knew that was the path I wanted to take.