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Ryan Geisser ’14 supports Legal Aid Society in Utica, New York

By Upstate Institute on July 25, 2013
Susan Conn and Ryan Geisser

Susan Conn ’79 with Ryan Geisser ’14. Conn oversees Colgate’s Consumer Bankruptcy Law Project.

Based in Utica, the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York is a stalwart community presence for needy clients with non-criminal legal issues.  The organization covers 13 counties in the region, and is challenged to meet the demands of a geographically dispersed population.  Ryan Geisser’s Summer Field School fellowship placement with Legal Aid follows his academic year participation in the campus-based Consumer Bankruptcy Project, which engages Colgate students with analyses of cases for which Legal Aid might provide support.  “I’ve had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Consumer Bankruptcy Project for the past two years, which gave me the training and experience I needed to become eligible for the internship.” 

Ryan’s main duties involve reviewing the materials completed by Colgate students on behalf of clients, to ensure accuracy prior to preparation of legal filings.  “My primary role is to assist poverty stricken individuals file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, a liquidation of all unsecured debt.”  Legal Aid handles a range of other civil matters for eligible clients, including eviction, citizenship, and divorce, and Ryan’s work includes involvement in these issues.  The office also manages the Justice Alliance Helpline, a phone response line that provides information about eligibility for clients seeking services.  “The sheer volume of callers can seem intimidating at times, but a majority of the employees here are veterans, and continue to work diligently regardless of such variables.”

An important outcome for Field School Fellows is developing an appreciation of the challenges facing the host community organization, but Fellows also often directly confront the difficult circumstances of clients.  Ryan sees this every day as he interacts with the attorneys at Legal Aid.  “Many of the hardships these individuals face are too tragic to enumerate here.  It is a daily reminder to me never to take anything for granted, and to always be mindful of the circumstances others may be facing.”

After Colgate, Ryan anticipates entering law school and the legal profession.  Clearly, the opportunity to work in the Legal Aid Society provides a great window into the critical need for attorneys who appreciate the needs of all members of our communities.  “Because I am not qualified to practice law (not yet, at least) there is only so much I am permitted to do here.  Thus, if I can do some of the smaller, more tedious (perhaps so far at times as mundane) tasks for an attorney or a paralegal, I am more than happy to do so.”

1 Comment

  • Bruce Selleck said:

    The connection with Legal Aid Society gives Colgate students real world experience. Great job Ryan and Susan.

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