I did not always know I wanted to be a lawyer. The thought really first occurred to me during college when I was an intern in Child, Inc.’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Program, where I worked with survivors of domestic violence navigating the Protection from Abuse (“PFA”) process in Family Court. I was always drawn to direct service work, working with and advocating for vulnerable people in my community. That internship was my first exposure to the intersection of direct service work with legal advocacy. I observed, for the first time, the immense power of being able to use the law in advocacy. And I also observed instances in which the legal system came up short in providing an individual with what I viewed as a just outcome. Finally, I saw firsthand the significant impact that having an attorney could have on an individual’s experience during, and the outcome of a court case, and how many people navigate the civil legal system unrepresented due to their inability to afford an attorney.
For all of those reasons, I became interested in doing legal aid work, but I wanted to get a sense of whether I was really cut out for it before going to law school. I got a job as a Paralegal at Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (“CLASI”). During those two years I spent at CLASI, I found my work to be both intellectually challenging and incredibly fulfilling. My clients made the work important, as our cases often had significant impacts on their lives. I felt the only way that I would enjoy my work more was if I was an attorney and had more autonomy over my cases. So, I left CLASI to become a legal aid lawyer, not necessarily intending to return. However, as I entered my final year of law school, I reached out to CLASI to find out whether they might rehire me.
I returned to CLASI in 2019 after graduating from law school and things really came full circle from where they started. I am back at the organization where I learned my love for this work. Among other things, I now represent individuals seeking PFAs, who worked with the Child, Inc. program that I interned in during college. What I realized during my time spent working elsewhere during law school is that there is great value in doing this type of work in a community in which you are really invested and feel a sense of connection. I lived in Delaware my entire life until law school, so I think that no matter where I live, I will always identify as a Delawarean. Because of my familiarity with CLASI and the community in which we work, I felt I could really hit the ground running as a new attorney in a way that I might not be able to elsewhere. That sense of connection to the place where I work also keeps me motivated to continue doing this work. Since I started at CLASI as a paralegal in 2014, the organization has grown and evolved in exciting ways, both in size and the ways in which we work to meet the needs of our clients. I am grateful to be doing this work here in Delaware at CLASI and look forward to what’s to come.
Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.
Read Abby’s article in the March edition of the DSBA Bar Journal here.