December 20, 2012
Lerae Kroon spent last summer working at Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York in the Immigration Office. This department provides legal consultations and direct representation to immigrants living in New York City. When she started her job search, Lerae knew that she wanted to spend her summer directly representing clients. As she already had experience in housing issues, she also wanted to use her summer to diversify her practice area experience. OPIA directed her to the Catholic Charities internship, which gave her the opportunity to work in legal services and learn about the field of immigration law from on-the-ground practitioners.
At the start of her internship, Lerae was assigned her own load of immigration cases ranging from asylum to applications for adjustment of status. Throughout the summer, she worked one-on-one with the clients she was assigned, helping them prepare and organize applications, working with them on detailed affidavits of their immigration experiences, and accompanying them to immigration interviews. She also took part in the office’s intake, screening potential clients who were seeking representation. While Lerae noted that those interviews were initially difficult due to her relatively recent exposure to immigration law and the communication barriers she faced with some of the prospective clients, the process taught her how to better spot legal issues and be a more effective interviewer.
In addition to her client work, Lerae was assigned substantive writing projects, including an appellate brief in support of an asylum case that was being appealed to the Second Circuit. These assignments gave Lerae the opportunity to further hone the writing skills she had learned during her 1L year and to tailor them to briefs and motions that were being submitted to the courts. More importantly, working on these assignments showed Lerae how engaging the legal research and writing process can be when it involves a real issue that impacts someone’s life.
Lerae was able to develop a great mentoring relationship with her supervising attorney who was a constant source of helpful information, feedback, and support throughout their time working together. Her internship with Catholic Charities confirmed that she wanted to work directly with clients as much as possible. Lerae recommends this internship for students looking for experience with legal services and direct client contact combined with substantive written assignments.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Kellie McDonald.