Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Jonathan Tucker writes about his experiences interning with the Housing Unit of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

This summer was a fantastic experience. Interning with the Housing Unit of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia gave me an opportunity to help some of the most vulnerable in DC. Those who are impoverished have needs for legal services beyond the average citizen. By extending legal services, one helps clients resolve legal problems and acquire a restored self-respect and dignity.

Many of the clients I saw at Legal Aid clients were desperate for help. They were often on the brink of homelessness. Many had been taken advantage of. One client came in complaining of becoming sick given her apartment’s conditions. She was asked, what was the code violation? She responded, "I have mushrooms growing out of my carpet." Helping such individuals improve their lives brings mutual joy. This summer’s experiences also gave me confidence that I can help individuals in meaningful ways.

Some may say that with more than 110,000 - nearly one in five - District residents living below the federal poverty line, the need for help creates an overwhelming challenge for legal services. Yet, it should be noted that the work performed by at the Legal Aid Society of DC extends far beyond their clients. Through briefing the courts and making convincing arguments in court, systemic improvements occur as judges are educated and previously erroneous assertions in the common law can be whittled away. The District is fairly progressive, but it’s common law presents opportunities to improve conditions for the poor. By researching varied topics, such the equitable defenses of laches and clean hands, elements of an oral tenancy, accord and satisfaction, to name just a few, I helped individual clients and laid the potential ground work for providing greater justice to others.

For others interested in pursuing legal services I would recommend DC Legal Aid. The organization is managed with the efficiency of any large firm. However, the personalities make the work fun and enjoyable. Those who work at DC Legal Aid are not their for a pay check. They love their work and their dedication to it is reflected in infinite ways. I have no regrets to having dedicated my 2L summer as I did.

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Equal Justice Foundation

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