Though the 2015 Summer Field School has just begun, On Tim Tang ’17 has already been working on her Summer Field School project for several weeks because she had previous experience in working with her community partner: the Legal Aid Society of Mid New York (LASMNY). In the spring semester, “OT” was involved in the Consumer Bankruptcy Law Project, a volunteer program in which students receive training on bankruptcy law and legal ethics, and then work under LASMNY supervision to prepare bankruptcy schedules for clients. These schedules are then used to recruit pro bono attorneys to represent the clients in bankruptcy court for free.
Through the Summer Field School, OT continues to work on this project, serving as a student paralegal to finalize Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases before they are referred to private attorneys who represent these clients in court for free. She intends to complete work on five bankruptcy cases this summer, and to gain some experience in working in the legal profession by shadowing an attorney in court. Because she is considering going to law school after graduation, the Fellowship is giving her an opportunity to try on a career in law.
The Fellowship is also teaching OT a lot about the need for bankruptcy assistance. “Previously, bankruptcy was a very abstract concept in my head,” she says. “However, after spending six weeks at LASMNY, I have a much clearer understanding of it. In the past, I naively assumed that by simply not spending frivolously, bankruptcy would never happen. I understand now that sometimes, the need to file for bankruptcy can arise from situations that are really beyond one’s control; sometimes, people need a fresh financial start because they have accumulated serious debt after a serious illness, leaving an abusive ex-spouse, or an accident that affects their ability to earn as much as they used to.”
So far, on a typical day, OT is in the Legal Aid office working on bankruptcy pleadings or writing memos. She is sometimes interviewing clients, or assisting them through a credit counseling session. She also has the opportunity to learn about other fields of law by sitting in on attorney interviews with clients about issues like homeowners’ rights or immigration law.