Jillian Marini, a University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law student, has wanted to work for an office with a strong dedication to providing clients equal access to the justice system.
Marini will be doing just that this summer while working with the Community Legal Services in Phoenix.
She is one of 11 UA law students chosen to participate in the prestigious 2011 Equal Justice Works Summer Corps program – the largest group of UA students selected in one year.
All told, 700 law students across the nation have been selected to participate in the program and will spend the summer working on a legal project at a nonprofit public interest organization.
"I was excited to hear that I had the chance to receive funding over the summer while working for a legal aid office," said Marini, who is also pursuing a graduate degree in gender and women's studies. "It was also nice to know that summer corps values future attorneys who make the choice to serve underprivileged clients."
Summer Corps is an AmeriCorps-funded program, offering law students the chance to gain first-hand experience and legal skills in areas such as client intake, representation and legal research and writing.
Marini, who interned at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office during her undergraduate years, said her supervisor, lawyer Michael Somsan, informed her of the opportunity.
"I feel honored to have been chosen and grateful that my supervising attorney encouraged me to apply," Marini said.
Under supervision, students work on a broad range of issues, providing critically needed legal assistance to low-income and underserved communities across the country. Students involved receive an award voucher to defray their educational costs.
"Students here are encouraged to chart their own paths and to identify career experiences that reflect their passions," said Paula Nailon, the UA College of Law's assistant dean for professional development.
The other UA law students selected are:
- Ashley Blum and Ana Castillo will work at the Florence Immigration & Refugee Rights Project.
- Sheila Gholkar will spend her summer at the East Bay Community Law Center in San Francisco.
- Jared Jorde plans to work with Community Legal Services in Phoenix.
- Eleanor Knowles will be in Phoenix at the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office.
- Kristin McManus and Jessica Zink will both work at the Yuma Legal Defender’s Office.
- Matthew McReynolds will live in Window Rock, Ariz. while working for DNA Legal Services.
- Lisa Pferdeort will serve at the Arizona Capital Representation Project.
- Jessica Ross will dedicate her summer to the Arizona Center for Disability.
Program participants may work with individuals at risk of losing their homes, who are going through divorce, who are in custody battles, and other legal matters.
“To have so many Equal Justice Works students in one summer, a relatively small school, reflects very well on our institutional commitment to public service and the strong ethic our students have in serving others," Nailon said. "It’s a record for us.”
Students involved also become official AmeriCorps members.
"The wonderful thing about working for community legal services is that you will not be given busy work," said Marini, who served with the Volunteer Lawyers Program during the fall.
"They need all the help that they can get so they are willing to take the time to train you to address the tasks that lawyers complete on a daily basis because they can always use more help."