Last year, I watched as a law student was introduced to a lawyer volunteering at the legal clinic. The lawyer was a white man in his 60s. The student was a woman of color in her 20s, and she was wearing hijab. I happen to know that both people have hearts of gold and come to the legal clinic with a desire to help and to give their time and talents selflessly.
Nonetheless, upon being introduced, the lawyer’s first words to the law student were: “It’s nice to meet you. Are you a foreign exchange student?” The student looked confused and embarrassed as she replied, “No. I grew up here in Milwaukee.”
A similar incident happened recently when a white lawyer asked a student of color where he was born and whether he had voting privileges. Again, the student in question replied that he was born and raised in the United States.
Yet another time, a white lawyer sat down at a table with a student of color: “What can we help you with at the clinic today?” The underlying assumption was that the student must be a client.
I also remember a moment when a white lawyer worked with a Latinx student for an entire shift and remarked at the end, “You are so articulate.” Why would this be mentionable? This is a student who has a college degree, has been admitted to law school, and will have a law degree in a few years.
The same comments would not have been made to white students volunteering in the clinic. Continue reading ““Are You a Foreign Exchange Student?” and Other Microaggressions in the Legal Clinic”
Marisa Cuellar Zane joins Marquette University Law School as the public interest law fellow in the Office of Public Service. In her new role, Marisa will further develop the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic’s (MVLC) estate-planning services. The MVLC is committed to helping low-income people navigate their estate-planning options by empowering clients with useful information. In 2017, the MVLC’s House of Peace and Veterans Service Office locations helped 75 people establish estate plans.
The need for estate-planning services is often overlooked in communities with low incomes and relatively lower-value assets. Yet in Milwaukee’s low-income communities, owning a home is not uncommon. Planning is essential to keep a home, usually a family’s largest asset, in the family. Advance planning also can include assigning an agent for making financial and healthcare decisions in order to avoid adult guardianship proceedings in court should infirmities arise down the road. Continue reading “Marisa Cuellar Zane Named Public Interest Law Fellow for Estate-Planning Program”
Kara is a single parent with two children. She works full-time, but still makes less than $1,500 each month. Kara’s boyfriend Jay, the father of one of Kara’s two children, lives with her, but does not always contribute to the household. In addition, he’s physically abusive to the family cat and to Kara. After the most recent incident where Jay pushed Kara into the wall and grabbed her arm so hard he left a bruise, Kara wants him to leave. And she wants a restraining order. But knowing who to call and where to go—and, most of all, how to pay for services she’ll need—is overwhelming her. If Kara lives in a state that invests in civil legal aid, she’ll have no problem finding resources and will be able to have a lawyer represent her—at little to no cost to her—at any court hearing she needs to get a domestic violence injunction.
While Kara’s story is merely illustrative—though many people experience circumstances like Kara’s every day—its larger point is important. Civil legal aid is a combination of services and resources that helps Americans of all backgrounds—including those who face the toughest legal challenges: children, veterans, seniors, ill or disabled people, and victims of domestic violence—to effectively navigate the justice system. Civil legal aid helps ensure fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of one’s ability to pay. It provides access to legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families. Civil legal aid makes it easier to access information through court forms; legal assistance or representation; and legal self-help centers. Civil legal aid also helps streamline the court system and cuts down on court and other public costs. When we say the Pledge of Allegiance, we close with “justice for all.” We need civil legal aid to ensure that the very principle our founders envisioned remains alive: justice for all, not the few who can afford it.
Our state has had a rocky history of funding civil legal aid programs. While the state did begin such funding, of late, that funding has since dropped precipitously. In 2007, for the first time in Wisconsin history, the legislature included nearly $2 million in the state budget for civil legal aid. In 2009, the funding was increased to just over $2.5 million. But in 2011, the funding was eliminated completely from the state budget. From 2012-2015, Wisconsin was one of just three states that did not provide any funding for civil legal aid for low income people. (The other two are Florida and Idaho.) Continue reading “Saving by Investing in Civil Legal Aid”
Kasey Parks has received the Milwaukee Bar Association’s (MBA) Pro Bono Publico Award in the category of law student. Kasey accepted her award at the MBA’s annual State of the Court Luncheon on Thursday, October 15th.
The award is given to an individual attorney, an organization, and a law student based on the following criteria: developing innovative ways to deliver volunteer legal services or improve access to justice; participating in activities that improve legal services to the poor or increase access to justice; and working on legislation that increases access to justice.
Kasey has completed over 150-hours to date. Most of her time has been given to the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics (MVLC). Kasey gives her time each and every week, doing what all practitioners should by making pro bono a habit in her busy schedule (Kasey is also completing her Master’s in Business Administration, is the Article and Research Editor for the Marquette Sports Law Review, and has been a volunteer and research assistant for the National Sports Law Institute for the past 3 years.).
As a member of the MVLC’s student advisory board, Kasey is a leader among her peers. She reaches out to incoming students and explains how the life of a busy law student has room for incorporate pro bono. She is an important part of our legal community’s desire to give back. As a law student and future attorney, her service ethic and actions are key to the culture of pro bono among the legal community. Thank you Kasey. You are worthy of this recognition. (In the photo above, Kasey is pictured with Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler and Milwaukee County Chief Judge Maxine White).