This summer I’m interning with the Legal Aid Society of Mid New York (LASMNY) through the Upstate Institute. LASMNY is a not-for-profit legal services group that provides civil (i.e. non-criminal) legal help to low-income residents of thirteen counties throughout upstate New York. They have a wide array of practice areas to serve the legal needs of their low-income clients, including consumer protection, housing, education, access to health care, and domestic violence. They deliver advice over a helpline, represent individual clients, conduct clinics and engage in impact litigation. Put together, these programs help thousands of people across upstate New York each year.
One central focus of my first two weeks has been a continuation of my work on bankruptcy cases, through the Consumer Bankruptcy Law Project (CBLP), that began during the academic year. The CBLP is collaborative effort between the Upstate Institute, LASMNY and local pro bono/volunteer lawyers that pools the resources of these groups to assist local low-income people in filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The program provides its clients with the opportunity to seek the relief of bankruptcy to provide them with a fresh financial start free of their often-crushing debt burden. During the academic year, other Colgate students and I participate in client interviews and draft a portion of the necessary pleadings; notably those that require due diligence and background research. This summer, I’m working on a number of bankruptcy cases by editing and expanding upon prior student work, as well as drafting pleadings on new cases. Once these documents are completed, I will work with the staff at LASMNY to refer all of the cases to outside pro bono attorneys who will finalize the few remaining pleadings and help the client file for bankruptcy in Federal Court.
Whether it has been through working on bankruptcy cases, doing research to update publications, or helping out with other consumer cases, my experience during the first few weeks of this summer have proven to be an excellent opportunity to learn about the legal issues affecting low-income people in the upstate region. It has been exciting to work alongside, and learn from, people dedicated to matters of deep importance to the people in the community they serve.