Eleven law and undergraduate student interns are spending their summer with us here at Legal Aid, and earlier this week they had the rare opportunity to listen and learn from the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, at the Washington Council of Lawyer’s (WCL) annual Summer Pro Bono and Public Interest Forum and luncheon.
Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Counsel of The Brennan Center for Justice’s D.C. office and WCL Board Member, engaged Justice Ginsburg in a conversation reflecting on her distinguished career, with a particular emphasis on women in the legal profession and the advancement of the women’s rights movement. Justice Ginsburg also highlighted the importance of public interest law in our society. She encouraged the students and lawyers in attendance to “do something outside yourself” and to find a way to better their community. “If you regard yourself as a true professional, then you have an obligation to help,” said Justice Ginsburg.
Following the conversation with Justice Ginsburg, attendees were able to participate in one of five breakout sessions aimed at introducing them to public interest careers and pro bono volunteer opportunities in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties, criminal law and the death penalty, immigration and human rights, transactional and non-litigation opportunities, and poverty law. Legal Aid’s own Beth Mellen Harrison, Supervising Attorney with our Housing Law Unit, was one of the panelists in the Poverty Law breakout session. Beth urged the attendees to not only help make their community better by pursuing opportunities in poverty law, but to also ensure they serve their clients with compassion and respect.
Legal Aid’s interns came away from the Summer Forum inspired and motivated by Justice Ginsburg, the panelists in the breakout sessions, and their fellow attendees. It was an opportunity for our student interns to learn and reflect on how far our society has come on access to justice issues and how much more work there is to be done as they embark on their legal careers.