By Kimberly Barton, 2018 Rural Summer Legal Corps Student Fellow
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.