Last summer, Caroline Sacerdote worked for the Legal Resources Centre (“LRC”) in South Africa. Most of her time was spent working on domestic impact litigation, but she also had the opportunity to work in international human rights. Caroline’s summer at the LRC showed her how the law can be used as a tool to solve social problems.
At the LRC, Caroline worked closely with an attorney focused on women’s and children’s rights. She conducted legal research and drafted memoranda on topics including indigency law and special schools. Caroline carried out fact-finding, creating a questionnaire to discover how policies were being implemented, and did follow-up interviews with community stakeholders. Her research uncovered problems with the implementation of laws, and she was able to see how impact litigation begins and discuss strategies for how to tackle problems.
Caroline also analyzed testimony for the Marikana Commission, which is mandated to investigate the events at the Lonmin Mine, where 34 people were killed and more than 70 people were injured during a strike in 2012. She synthesized and coded testimony for the attorneys to use in their closing arguments. Additionally, Caroline participated in a civil society meeting critiquing South Africa’s draft report on women’s rights for the Maputo Protocol and worked on both the LRC’s commentary and shadow report.
At HLS, Caroline has sought ways to develop her knowledge on a variety of public interest issues, with an emphasis on gender and sexuality. Her work at the LRC helped narrow her focus to LGBTQIA and reproductive rights issues. It also solidified her desire to work in impact litigation. An aspect of the LRC’s work that Caroline particularly admired is how connected the Centre is with the people it serves.
Caroline enjoyed working at the LRC. The staff was extremely driven but the atmosphere was friendly, casual, and non-hierarchical. She was given leeway to manage her own workload, and her supervising attorney provided ample feedback on her work. She enjoyed sitting in the copy room with another intern and a legal researcher. Instead of being a distraction, Caroline liked the steady flow of people, which allowed her to get to know her co-workers very well.
One of the best parts about working in South Africa is the newness of the country’s constitution. The jurisprudence is so new, and there is a strong focus on human rights issues embedded directly within the constitution.
Caroline would recommend the LRC for anybody interested in substantive public interest issues, international law, and/or impact litigation. She was able to get hands-on experience that has inspired her to pursue impact litigation as a career. This summer, Caroline will be interning with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York as a Summer Ford Fellow.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Jillian Wagman