The 25th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held on February 16 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. Shannon Strombom, a current law student, shares her experience here as a PILS Fellow.
Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
What kind of work did you do there?
The legal services office of Catholic Charities provides immigration and refugee assistance to low-income clients. Over the summer, I got a chance to work on a variety of different immigration petitions and applications. This included responding to Requests for Evidence on a petition to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residency and Special Immigrant Religious Worker petitions, as well as writing briefs for asylum applications, and helping eligible legal permanent residents or refugees apply for naturalization.
How was the experience meaningful to you?
Before coming to law school, I spent an AmeriCorps term of service in a Milwaukee high school where a handful of my students were refugees. I’m also currently a Street Law instructor at the Hmong American Peace Academy, where my entire class is second-generation immigrants and refugees. All the students I’ve worked with have been incredibly thankful for the opportunity to come to the United States and to build a life here that they could not have had in their war-torn countries. I wanted to do immigration work because I knew I would be working with people in similar situations to my students and I felt as if I could give back to my students in some way by helping new immigrants make their home here. I’m not sure what outcome the cases I worked on at Catholic Charities will have, but the experience was still just as meaningful because I feel like I helped my clients take positive steps towards their goal of citizenship or legal permanent residency.
What did you learn in the course of your work?
I learned a lot about legal research using the Immigration and Nationality Act, federal regulations, and field manuals for various federal agencies. And I learned A LOT about asylum law! Aside from substantive law, I took a lot of practical skills away from the position. I was able to directly interview clients and other interested parties for the first time and I got to practice writing brief and affidavits outside of the classroom, which I’m sure will be very valuable moving forward.
What do you like best about doing public interest law work?
That you can see that you are doing your small part in making a positive impact where it is needed most. Clients are always SO grateful for any help you give them – even something that seems as simple as telling them where they can file paperwork or that your job is to see to it that their case gets the best possible outcome.
What are you doing to help with the PILS Auction?
This year, I’ll be helping with set-up and working at the check-in/registration table. I also spent the months leading up to the auction reaching out to businesses in Milwaukee, and as far north as Door County, to secure donations. Hopefully some of my donations are large ticket items that can support incoming PILS Fellows!