Working in the Public Sector

H LittlefieldBy Hannah Littlefield, Class of 2019

I had the privilege to work at the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia this past summer. Interning for the Legal Aid Society was a very enriching experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from the hard-working and dedicated staff attorneys, but I also had the honor of helping low-income Virginians with a variety of free legal services. On my first day, the managing attorney inquired about my areas of interests and within an hour, I was working on a case dealing with a child custody dispute between a same-sex couple. On my second day, I was already meeting with a client and learning so much about the legal process.

From day one at Legal Aid, I was doing a variety of legal tasks, and I loved every minute. One of the most rewarding experiences was having the opportunity to see my work, and the work of the staff attorneys, help people in need. Cases are continuously being assigned to the staff attorneys, and sometimes within a week or two, an attorney is already in court representing the client. After helping one of the staff attorney’s put together a client’s trial binder, I was able to observe the client’s court proceedings in Family Court. During the span of one day, I observed the testimony of both sides, attended the private conference between the attorneys, joined the Guardian Ad Litem’s meeting with the children, and witnessed the judge enter a temporary restraining order. It was truly rewarding to see how Legal Aid was able to help a mother fight for the custody of her children and obtain a protective order against her abuser.

I also had the opportunity to research a wide range of legal issues for the staff attorneys, including child custody disputes between biological and non-biological parents, consumer rights, and housing authority disputes. I assisted the Equal Justice Works Fellow with automobile fraud and consumer protection advocacy by analyzing how Virginia courts have defined deceptive acts and practices, and by outlining the possible avenues for filing a claim under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. I frequently interacted with clients, prepared advanced medical directives, simple wills, and divorce complaints; drafted memoranda; prepared trial binders; and presented my research findings to the staff attorneys. I also participated in a domestic violence meeting where staff attorneys from every office brainstormed strategies to help more victims of domestic violence obtain and keep protective orders.

One of the greatest aspects about interning with Legal Aid was learning something new every day, working with the staff attorneys on an array of issues, and helping people in need. The staff at Legal Aid never ceased to amaze me, and the work they do in the community is truly inspiring. This experience solidified my commitment to work with individuals and communities living in poverty. I always knew I wanted to work in the public sector, and after interning with Legal Aid, I cannot imagine working in any other field. I cannot thank Legal Aid enough for providing me with invaluable, hands-on experience.