The 24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) was held on February 17 at the Law School. Proceeds from the event go to support PILS Fellowships to enable Marquette law students to do public interest work in the summer. Corinne Frutiger, a current law student, shares her experience here as a PILS Fellow.
Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?
Milwaukee Justice Center.
What kind of work did you do there?
I got to continue a lot of the pro bono work that I was already very involved with, including meeting one on one with clients in the Family Forms Clinic and side by side with volunteer attorneys in the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic (MVLC). In the Family Forms Clinic I worked one on one with clients to help them navigate the family law process, whether that be the starting of an action, or jumping back into an existing case.
I also worked with attorneys in the MVLC to provide brief legal advice to clients on a range of matters, including such matters as family law, small/large claims, probate, landlord-tenant, and guardianships. I was given the opportunity to be fully integrated with the MJC staff and sit in on meetings to discuss what more we could do to better serve our clients and the Milwaukee community. It was truly incredible to see and be a part of a group that works tirelessly to continue to improve their services for the benefit of the community. Watching the MJC staff, volunteer attorneys, and even some of the other volunteer students work so hard and brainstorm together to serve the full extent of a client’s needs was truly memorable and an experience I am truly grateful for.
How was the experience meaningful to you?
Going into the summer between 1L and 2L year, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to work somewhere that included me. I didn’t want to be one of those interns running to grab coffee, or just making copies and hopefully getting to sit in with an attorney to observe a few aspects of the work being done. I wanted to be a part of a group, to work directly with the clients and to make a difference. The MJC gave me that opportunity and so much more. At the MJC, I was treated as another member of the staff. Being a part of the MJC staff is truly incredible for many reasons, but to name only one, it means that you become part of the MJC family – which brings with it incredible warmth, love, and joy.
What did you learn in the course of your work?
I’m not sure if this is something that I learned, or if it was something that was just strengthened and reinforced within me, but the most important thing I learned was to listen. I believe so many of the people who come to visit us at the MJC simply need to be heard. These are people who have bounced from office to office and wondered the long and confusing halls of the Milwaukee County Courthouse, all being told that there was nothing that someone could do to help them.
What I learned was that there is an incredible value to listening. Instead of only asking the direct questions to get to the root of the client’s problem as quickly as I could to provide the fastest possible solution (if there even was a solution I could offer), I took the time to listen to people. I took the time to ask them about themselves and to let them tell me their story, and what I found was, almost always, that client left in a much better place legally and emotionally/mentally as well. Taking the time to care for the person is just as important, if not more so, as taking care of the person’s legal issue.
What do you like best about doing public interest work?
What I liked best was working directly with clients to better their situations. I am a very people-oriented person. I think that it is incredibly important that we use our skills, as lawyers and even as law students, to help those that cannot always help themselves. Public interest law is just that – it is people-oriented and geared towards helping those without the ability to do so. I think perhaps Emily Dickinson said it best when she wrote, “If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain…I shall not live in vain.” To me, this is what public interest law means, and it was what I lived every day at the MJC.
What are you doing to help with the PILS auctions?
I went out with some other students into the Milwaukee community to inform them of our auction, why we do it, how it benefits students, and ask for their help in supporting our PILS Fellowship program. I am also a student volunteer to help in any way that is needed, whether that be set up, take down, taking and retrieving guests’ coats, or helping people to tables and answering their questions about the auction.