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An Incredible Learning Opportunity

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Photo of Daniel Hartman-Strawn

Daniel Hartman-Strawn, a law student at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and a 2020 Rural Summer Legal Corps (RSLC) Student Fellow, recently chatted with Equal Justice Works about how his RSLC participation has strengthened his commitment to working in public service law.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing rural communities?

Though I knew that there was a shortage of lawyers working in rural communities, I did not realize how dire the need was until I went through the orientation for the Rural Summer Legal Corps. Providing legal services in rural Michigan this summer has shown me that it is crucial to have lawyers committed to serving tribal communities. Consistently serving tribal communities helps lawyers familiarize themselves with the specific laws of the tribes in the region and the complex jurisdictional issues that arise.

What inspired you to apply for the Rural Summer Legal Corps and why did you choose to work at Michigan Indian Legal Services?

I decided to attend law school because I wanted to get back to serving tribal communities. Having a legal education gave me the ability to make an enhanced impact through the law. The opportunity to receive instruction from Equal Justice Works about serving rural communities, combined with seeing how my host organization Michigan Indian Legal Services specifically addresses the needs of tribal members, seemed like an incredible learning opportunity.

Can you tell us a bit more about your work at Michigan Indian Legal Services and what a typical day at the organization looked like for you?

Despite COVID-19 changing my project, I have had an incredible time assisting attorneys on everything from indigent clients’ rights to producing materials for clients to use for estate planning on their own. My supervising attorney made an effort to make sure I received a wide range of experiences, which was fantastic.

What has been one of the biggest highlights of your summer of service?

I generally ended up researching narrow legal issues for the cases, and it was great to continue to develop the legal research and writing skills that I had begun to learn as a 1L. To have my work impact a client’s case is gratifying and has reinforced why I wanted to attend law school in the first place.

As a Student Fellow, you’ve spent the summer developing valuable skills and experience. What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?

The biggest takeaway that I had from my experience as a Student Fellow is the power of being a lawyer and understanding the law. The law is so complex, particularly in a criminal defense context. Many clients are facing a set of charges that are designed to intimidate and coerce them into taking a plea. The ability to help clients navigate the legal process and get their life back on track is rewarding.

How do you think your participation in the Rural Summer Legal Corps will help grow your career? Is public interest work something you’re interested in pursuing after law school?

Participating in the Rural Summer Legal Corps has absolutely allowed me to grow my career. I gained valuable new skills and insights while strengthening my commitment to working in public service law after I graduate from law school. The need for legal services in rural communities is even greater than I had thought when I entered law school. It was exciting to be a part of the effort to expand access to legal services in rural communities.

If you are interested in embarking on a summer of service like Daniel, apply to the Rural Summer Legal Corps by 11:59 p.m. ET on February 8, 2021. For more information about program eligibility and requirements, please visit here.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow