The Legal Aid Society of Mid New York (LASMNY) provides legal services in 13 Upstate New York counties to people who cannot afford a lawyer. Two Field School Fellows are working on different projects with the agency this summer.
Will Ely ’15 will be working with attorney Susan Conn ’74 to make final preparations on several Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases that are a part of the Consumer Bankruptcy Law Project at Colgate. Once these cases are ready, they will be given to attorneys who have agreed to take them on pro bono in order to help those in need achieve financial stability. As Will learns to prepare bankruptcy cases for the program, he will become prepared to provide training for students who will participate in the program next year at Colgate and help them complete new cases more quickly and accurately.
Crystal Sawh ’15 is helping to develop an Advocacy Network for LASMNY, which will strengthen communications between community organizations who are serving the same people. By providing training workshops on various legal topics, the network aims to help organizations better serve their clientele. Though the project has just begin, Crystal already sees a pressing need for the establishment of a strong community of allied not-for-profits and governmental organizations who are working to assist disadvantaged individuals.
For Crystal, this fellowship is helping her to develop her communication skills because it requires her to engage over seventy community organizations in a discussion about working together to become more effective. Will, as a computer science major, is using his knowledge of computers to working with LASMNY’s director of technology to prepare laptops for use in the program and to understand the network-oriented bankruptcy software that is used by the organization.
Both Will and Crystal are interested in pursuing a career in law, so these fellowships at Legal Aid are giving them valuable experience. Because Will intends to apply to law school after he graduates, he values this hands-on opportunity to experience a law office. He says that in addition to developing an understanding of how to read legal documents and how a law firm works, this fellowship “will help me develop analytical skills for discerning what is of substance, and what isn’t, for a particular case.”
While Crystal is interested in environmental law, her time at Legal Aid is giving her an opportunity to better understand how the organization provides assistance with navigation of the legal system. She says that “being in an environment in which individuals are actively creating a positive change by equipping marginalized individuals with the necessary tools to defend their own rights is truly inspiring and directly aligns to my future career goals.”