UNC Immigration Clinic Alum Update

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We recently heard from Sarah Colwell, who graduated in 2014 after serving as a student advocate in the Immigration Clinic for the 2013-14 academic year:

I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works Employment Opportunity Legal Corps Fellow with Legal Aid of North Carolina's Second Chance Employment and Housing Project. As a fellow, I provide reentry services to individuals with prior justice involvement, focusing primarily on expunctions and certificates of relief. I also work with community organizations to build direct referral relationships. For example, much of my work to date has been focused on training domestic violence advocates on "victim-defendants," or domestic violence victims who became defendants in criminal cases as a result of their abusive relationships. Together, we craft practices that will allow those advocates to recognize victim-defendants among their clients and refer them to our project for assistance. We hope that this will help them both cut off any collateral consequences they may be suffering from as a result of their justice involvement and help in their recovery. Finally, I travel across the state to help with mobile legal clinics and community education events.

On a daily basis, I am reminded of how instrumental my clinical experience was in preparing me for practice. Though the transition from student to practicing attorney will always include some bumps, because of my time with the Immigration Law Clinic at UNC, I began my position with Legal Aid knowing that I was capable of interacting with clients in an intentional and meaningful way. Practically, Professor Beth Posner showed me the value in plotting a roadmap for each case, for setting personal deadlines, and for identifying the best evidence possible for client cases. However, she also showed me what it meant to put the client first in every step of the case including by using culturally sensitive interview techniques and by carefully protecting the client's own voice and story in any relevant documents. Instead of shying away from client interviews, I began work excited to get to know my clients and to take on community events that would let me demonstrate to the community how we could become meaningful partners and helpful advocates. I am grateful everyday to have had the opportunity to develop critical skills for my legal practice in a safe and challenging space and know that it has made a significant difference in the amount I have been able to accomplish during my first year of practice.

Thank you for the update, Sarah!

Posted by Beth S. Posner on Thu. May 28, 2015 2:07 PM
Categories: Clinic Alum Update, Immigration Clinic
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

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