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Explore a Career in Civil Legal Aid

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By Kimberly Barton, 2018 Rural Summer Legal Corps Student Fellow

Photo of Kimberly Barton
Kimberly Barton at Legal Services Corporation headquarters

I spent the past summer participating in the Rural Summer Legal Corps (RSLC), a rural outreach program sponsored by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and administered by Equal Justice Works. I worked at Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Grand Island Office with the Raising Effective Advocacy for Crime Victims Health and Safety (REACH) initiative, where I assisted rural victims and survivors of domestic violence and elders who have faced abuse or financial exploitation.

At Legal Aid of Nebraska, my main responsibilities included:

  • Providing education outreach to local partners and agencies serving domestic violence victims
  • Conducting client intake and interviews, legal research, drafting pleadings, and preparing for and attending court hearings
  • Observing and reporting on protection order proceedings in courts in various rural counties

My summer experience has highlighted the need for lawyers who serve low-income clients in rural Nebraska and other rural areas across the country. Legal Aid of Nebraska and similar state legal aid programs have limited resources. A caller who qualifies for free legal services may receive a range of assistance, though full-scale in-court representation for all of one client’s legal issues is rare. Clients are expected to take initiative and be resourceful, as sometimes Legal Aid of Nebraska can only provide self-help information or a referral. This can be challenging for clients, especially when they face a domino effect of legal and personal issues.

For example, a client seeking a protection order against a spouse may later need to file for divorce and resolve custody and child support disputes. There may be related debtor/creditor and bankruptcy issues, property disputes, and criminal matters. This has taught me to think more holistically about what information and advice a client may find useful. It has also given me more patience and understanding when I communicate what services Legal Aid of Nebraska can and cannot provide.

I would absolutely recommend the Rural Summer Legal Corps to others. I’ve had the opportunity to explore a career in civil legal aid and meet tremendous people along the way. I especially enjoyed the conference at the LSC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. before I began my internship. The thoughtful programming gave me the opportunity to connect with like-minded law students and solidify my interest in public service. I look forward to building on this interest in my next two years of law school and beyond.

Kimberly Barton is a law student at the University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln, Nebraska.

If you are interested in Kimberly’s experience and want to explore a career in civil legal aid, submit an application to Rural Summer Legal Corps by 11:59 p.m. EST on February 11, 2019. For more information about program eligibility and requirements, please visit rurallegalcorps.org/apply.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow