Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The New Faces at AVLF

The New Faces at AVLF

Carey Kersten
Carey Kersten is AVLF's new Development Director. A native of South Texas, Carey has lived in Atlanta for nearly five years and was most recently a part of the technical proposal writing team at AirWatch. Prior to that, Carey worked at Sutherland in the client and professional development department.

Carey holds Bachelor's and Master's of Arts degrees in English and Technical Communications from Texas State University, and she has over ten years of business development and marketing experience. She has run eight marathons (but keeps promising to quit) and loves to read and travel.
 


Cole Thaler 
Cole Thaler joins AVLF as our Director of Housing and Consumer Programs. Previously, he worked as a supervising staff attorney with Georgia Legal Services Program, where he represented low-income rural Georgians in cases including unemployment benefit appeals, protective orders, eviction defense, and food stamp appeals. In 2011, he won an injunction in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia requiring a public housing authority to lower the rent it was charging his disabled client.  
 
From 2005 through 2009, Cole worked for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization that works on behalf of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those with HIV. As Lambda Legal's transgender rights attorney, Cole litigated a number of federal court cases around the country that advanced the rights of transgender people, including prisoners and youth.  In 2009, he received a Stonewall Bar Association award recognizing Outstanding Service to the Stonewall Community.
 
Cole co-authored "Serving All Communities: Providing Respectful and Competent Services to Low-Income LGBT Clients," published in the January-February 2014 issue of Clearinghouse Review:  Journal of Poverty Law and Policy. He was the lead author of "A Seat at the Table: Justice for SNAP Recipients Accused of Fraud in Georgia," published in Clearinghouse Review's September-October 2012 issue.
Cole received his bachelor's degree magna cum laude from Williams College and his J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law.  

AVLF's New Creditors' Bankruptcy Program Goes Undefeated

Great news! Serving as an AVLF volunteer attorney, you have helped your client win her case - or are on the verge of doing so - against the slumlord (or recalcitrant employer, etc.) that took advantage. But uh oh, the scoundrel claim-debtor has filed for bankruptcy protection, and you know nothing about the bankruptcy process.

More great news! In partnership with the Bankruptcy Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association, AVLF has established the Low Income Creditors Assistance Project (with the catchy acronym LICAP). Now, sophisticated bankruptcy practitioners will take these matters on a pro bono basis for AVLF clients holding claims or judgments where the defendant-debtor's files for bankruptcy.

LICAP is already a success. AVLF Saturday Lawyer program client Mr. D, a hardworking and highly skilled chef working for an unscrupulous restaurant owner, eventually had to quit because the owner kept underpaying him. In the end, the employer withheld his last few paychecks and Mr. D ended up out about $3,000 in wages - wages that were hard-earned and desperately needed to support his family.

Mr. D's case was first assigned to Taylor Tribble, an amazing attorney from Huff, Powell & Bailey. When her well-written demands were ignored, Taylor did not hesitate to file suit and fight for her client. Before a judgment could be obtained, the employer filed for bankruptcy, but only after transferring assets and fully staying in business. 

For too many years and in too many cases, a defendant-employer or landlord's bankruptcy filing marked the end of the road for AVLF clients; bankruptcy court was just not a forum with which we or our volunteers were familiar and the filing itself suggested hope for any collection on a judgment was lost. As AVLF's ground-breaking judgment collection project - Dollars for Judgments - has grown, we have seen even more judgment-debtor employers and landlords file for bankruptcy as they ran from our skilled collection attorneys. Those collection efforts typically stopped at the bankruptcy court door.

This is no longer the case. Bankruptcy Section Chair Alison Elko Franklin (who also helped develop the project with AVLF), of McKenna Long & Aldridge, teamed with top-flight accounting firm FTI Consulting - another AVLF partner under this program - to take on the inaugural LICAP case, filing a proof of claim for Mr. D. After one eventful and entertaining Creditor's Meeting in the bankruptcy court, the employer-debtor's attorney approached Alison about a settlement, and Mr. D was paid, in full and much faster than any traditional collection efforts would have achieved. While it is tempting to stop with this undefeated record, AVLF is excited to push forward with this new innovative program - and new cases are already in the wings! Alison and FTI have set the bar pretty high, but we are confident this project will continue to produce similar results and, in any event, will always make our clients know that no stone was left unturned in our efforts to get them justice. 

When clients show up at AVLF, they are often paralyzed by their circumstances; you can hear it in their voices. One volunteer recently reported that when she called her client after the successful collection on her judgment, she could literally hear the change in her client - the paralysis was giving way in favor of the start of a better future for her and her family. Through AVLF and the Bankruptcy Section of the Atlanta Bar Association's Low Income Creditors Assistance Project (LICAP), we have hopefully removed yet another barrier to getting all of our clients some justice and hope for a better future. To learn more or get involved, please contact our Deputy Director, Michael Lucas, at mlucas@avlf.org.    

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pro Bono Service: An Honor, Not a Burden
By: Nilufar Abdi-Tabari,
Nilufar Abdi-Tabari is a family law attorney
practicing in Roswell, Georgia.  She volunteers every
Monday for the Domestic Violence Program
of the AVLF in the Safe Families Office, aiding victims of
intimate partner violence to obtain Ex-Parte and
Twelve Month Protective Orders
Attorney at Law

“Don’t worry! I’m happy. I’m happy because I am finally free.” In a surprising reversal of roles, I realized “T”, my client, was trying to comfort … She must have seen the tears I had tried to blink away.
For almost a year, I have been spending my Mondays at the Safe Families Office in the Fulton County Courthouse, where clients are provided assistance in obtaining Ex-Parte and Twelve-Month Protective Orders for intimate partner violence. It was on one of these Mondays that I had the privilege of meeting T, a beautiful young woman with a bright smile and a bubbly sense of humor.  The story behind that smile is one that will forever resonate with me.

In T’s case, the abuse began sixteen years earlier, when her mother gave the abuser access to T in exchange for drugs. Since then, T had endured years of extremely violent physical, emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of her abuser, a man 18 years her senior. Today, as a liberated woman, the countless scars and bruises on her body provide a road map to her previous years of physical abuse.

The scars on her ankle direct us to the episode of her jump from a second story window in a vain effort to escape her knife-yielding abuser, only to break her ankle when she landed, leaving her unable to escape. Her abuser then took her back into their home and kept her there for three weeks, waiting for the bruises on her body to heal before taking her to the hospital to be treated for her broken bones. The faded bruises on her neck lead to her eventual escape, a desperate run to a local post office after forty-eight hours of constant physical abuse. This journey of abuse and violence culminated in T’s arrival at the Safe Families Office, a refuge and place of aid for women in T’s situation.

As she finished her story, she looked at me and smiled. Against all odds, T was experiencing happiness because, for the first time in 16 years, she was free from abuse—regardless of the journey that lay ahead of her, she had successfully left her past behind. I could feel her joy and hope shining through the fading bruises. In that moment, I realized what a privilege it was to be able to stand beside her and provide some ease, comfort and assistance as she sought a protective order.

Through this encounter and many more like it, I have come to realize that providing pro bono services to the many victims that come through the Domestic Violence Program of the AVLF in the Safe Families Office is not only an invaluable service to these clients, but also a remarkable honor for me as a young attorney. At the Safe Families Office, I have found both a community of colleagues and friends among the many amazing attorneys with whom I have had the honor of working. And on occasion, I have been blessed by the comforting word and smile from those most in need of the same.

Even a $500 Win Can Change Lives 
By: Andre Ross
Associate, Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton
Reprinted with generous permission of the author and the Daily Report 
Published 01/13/2014


Over the past 18 months, I have been fortunate enough to assist with two matters for the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, both of which came to a successful resolution, and one of which was particularly meaningful in my career as a young attorney.

In June 2012, I participated in AVLF's Saturday Lawyer Program, which connects legal professionals with low-income individuals. I met a woman who had been evicted from her rental home after the landlord failed to pay the mortgage and the bank foreclosed on the property, leaving her scrambling to find housing. Despite causing the foreclosure and eviction, the landlord then refused to return the client's $500 security deposit. I agreed to help the woman recover her security deposit.

Working in a big law firm, it can become east to lose sight of the forest for the trees. For many people working at a law firm in Atlanta, poverty is an abstract concept. For better or worse, it is what we glimpse out the windows on the way to the airport, or what we read about in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I am as susceptible to this critique as anyone, but I have come to see that AVLF is an avenue by which those of us who are more fortunate can understand, in a real and powerful way, what it means to have less, and, more importantly, what we can do to assist others.

The case I handled for AVLF, although a dispute over only $500, meant the world to my client. To her, with no steady source of income, the security deposit was the difference between being able to pay her bills and having the lights shut off. After rounds of demand letters, the case went to trial in July 2013, with the landlord-defendant choosing to hire counsel rather than pay the $500 my client demanded. After a bench trial, the court awarded my client her full damages, recognizing that she was the victim of a scheme to take advantage of someone perceived as ignorant and helpless. As we left the courtroom with her young son in tow, she hugged me enthusiastically and thanked me for spending my time and energy on her "little old case." That kind of client feedback is what AVLF brings to being a lawyer in Atlanta.

AVLF's Saturday Lawyer Program, like its many efforts around the metro area, helps give context to what it means to be an attorney. It allows those of us with the resources and acumen to work within the system to help those who lack those same skills and opportunities. To many who read this, $500 is nice to have but not necessary. To those such as my client served by AVLF, $500 can truly mean the world.

I learned firsthand that being a resource to those who otherwise have none is rewarding on both a personal and professional level, and it is the kind of feeling that everyone should ensure is part of their practice. AVLF is how you make that happen.

Read more: http://www.dailyreportonline.com/id=1202637621543/First-Person%3A-Even-a-%24500-Win-Can-Change-Lives#ixzz2uSOiUtmW

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

AVLF Announces Michael Lucas as New Deputy Director

AVLF is proud to announce that Michael Lucas has become the new Deputy Director of the Foundation.

Michael Lucas, AVLF Deputy Director
Michael has worked with AVLF for four years, and two years ago became the Director of Housing and Consumer Programs. In that span, Michael has done especially remarkable work with AVLF’s signature program, the Saturday Lawyer Program: under Michael’s cogent and enthusiastic direction, the Saturday Lawyer Program is the strongest it has ever been in the 40 plus years of its operation. In 2013 alone, more than 250 volunteer lawyers counseled more than 350 clients on a Saturday morning on housing, wage claim and debt defense matters and dispensed more than $250,000 of free legal services to low-income members of our community on Saturday alone – saying nothing of the significantly greater amount of work done on the cases after Saturday when those attorneys accepted cases. 

Michael started the AVLF Dollars for Judgments Program by encouraging the State Bar Creditor’s Rights Committee to join AVLF in an effort to collect judgments secured by or on behalf of AVLF clients; he was also instrumental in the founding of the new LICAP (Low Income Consumer Advocacy Program) Program that will send experienced practitioners into Bankruptcy Court in adversary proceedings on behalf of AVLF clients who are judgment creditors. Michael also directs the AVLF/Atlanta Bar Association Estate Planning & Probate Section Probate Information Center, and related AVLF substantive pro bono programs.

Moreover, Michael is a delightful person with whom to work, has a wicked sense of humor and is widely well respected in the Atlanta legal community. With his energetic and passionate approach to every interaction (sustained, somehow, through the sleep-deprivation period brought on by the birth of his and wife Lauren’s two daughters, Maya and Zoe), Michael continues to present the very best of the Foundation, and as a Staff we look forward to Michael’s leadership. Our congratulations to our wonderful colleague and new Deputy Director, Michael Lucas!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

AVLF - Inspiring Art in Atlanta

AVLF -  Inspiring Art in Atlanta

On view at the Emory Center for Ethics until February 6th is a collection of work which is meant to view, address, and examine the dynamics of relationships and homes fraught with intimate partner violence.
 This collection is the work of two and a half years and spans the time I spent working with AVLF at the Safe Families Office, assisting victims of abuse with filing for Temporary Protective Orders.  I was affected deeply by what I saw at the Safe Families Office and as an artist felt compelled to try and illustrate even a portion of what I was seeing in a way and space that others might witness it as well.  This has not always been an easy task and I have had many doubts and fears about the work I am making. 

Relationships are complicated, like the work to serve the people involved in them, because they are built on hope and love, which are strong bonds even in the face of violence.  Watching people leave and go back, watching people reconcile, and watching people get hurt is not easy as an advocate.  What I am clearest about, however, is how the discomfort I feel is nothing to the pain the survivors feel and that is a pain I will never fully understand.  As I have said many times, victims of domestic violence must watch the places they feel safe be turned into places of fear.   Homes are turned into war zones and into prisons.  The many objects they use in their daily lives become tools of oppression and weapons of violence.

Capturing the violence without sensationalizing what is happening is vital to me.  I want someone to view this and understand how bad it is, but also to understand that “bad” is contextual.  Sometimes bad is not visible to the outside and it is not a bruised eye.  Sometimes “bad” is a threat and that threat is a truly heavy burden.  I want someone to understand how universal this issue is and to see that this is also them, their neighbor, and this is happening in their backyard.  I want someone to understand various dynamics that affect a person’s choices, decisions, and change within this violence.  What outside forces are pushing this person to stay?  What is pushing them to leave?  What fears do they have? 

It is my firm belief that understanding is and can never be complete, but knowing even a portion of the struggle is valuable and integral to changing these actions and behaviors.
 

“The Artwork of Jessica Caldas” is on view at the Emory Center for Ethics until February 6th, 2014.
There will be an artist talk on Wednesday, February 5th at 6:30 pm.  The talk is free to the public and will be in the Center for Ethics room 102.

Location:
Emory University
Center for Ethics
1531 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322
Hours: 8:30 AM- 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday

You can view more of my work at jessicacaldas.com

Fighting for the Oppressed until They’re Made Whole

Fighting for the Oppressed until They’re Made Whole


By Ryan Locke, Criminal Defense Attorney, Locke Law Firm

As a criminal defense lawyer, I often receive frantic calls. A family member was just hauled away by the cops, or the news just said the caller has been indicted, or the police are at the door with a search warrant. But one call gave me pause: “The sheriff is on his way to my house,” sobbed the woman on the phone, “and he’s going to arrest me unless I pay the debt collector. What should I do?”

I’ve received similar versions of this call since then, and they all end the same way. The sheriff never comes and the debt collector—if he isn’t just an outright fraud—lays low before calling a few days later with more threats and demands.

I didn’t know about this side of debt collection before working with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. But then one Saturday morning I met Sandra, who had come to AVLF for help. She was being harassed by debt collectors for a supposedly unpaid store credit card. Sandra thought she had paid it off but wasn’t sure, so she asked them to send her proof of the debt. Instead, they filed suit.

AVLF had my back. They sent me their in-house treatise on debt collection defense and put me in touch with an expert debt-defense attorney. Pulling together language from their resources and my research, I filed an answer and counterclaim the day before court and hand-delivered it to the debt collector’s bewildered attorney on the courthouse steps. She offered a mutual dismissal of claims with prejudice.

As it turns out, the store that issued Sandra the credit card went bankrupt, and Sandra’s debt was sold to a holding company that resold the debt to the collector. But the debt collector only bought Sandra’s name and phone number; he didn’t buy the paperwork proving that a debt existed. We still don’t know if Sandra actually owed the store any money. But for Sandra, the calls stopped and that was a win.
I’ve continued working with AVLF, suing misbehaving landlords and demanding companies pay their workers. Two things remain constant for each case. First, you’re a member of the AVLF team. Michael Lucas, who oversees many of these cases, is an expert co-counsel advising on strategy and technique. One weekend, he even sent me an excited text about different ways to serve process on my out-of-state defendant.

Second, resolving the clients’ seemingly minor problems has a profound effect on their lives. A landlord releasing the security deposit is the difference between moving out of the moldy and cockroach-infested apartment or suffering through another month.

In my criminal defense practice, I stand with the accused and fight for their freedom. With AVLF, I fight for the poor and oppressed until they’re made whole. Please join me, and the hundreds of other volunteers, in this critical pursuit.     


Ryan Locke is the founder and managing member of the Locke Law Firm, specializing in criminal defense

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Shedding my Blinders: How Guard ad Litem Work Opened My Eyes

By: Dara Paulsen, ESQ.  
Although the 'best interests of the child' is always at the forefront of our domestic laws, I never truly considered how working directly with children in family law can influence my own practice, expectations, and preconceptions until I began taking volunteer Guardian ad Litem cases with AVLF. As a practicing family law attorney, I have the opportunity to work with clients with children in divorce and adoption cases. But as a GAL, I work with the child during the entire case, and the blinders really come off. Acting as the "eyes and ears" of the Court, you really get to know the child and have the opportunity to play detective-investigating the child's wants, needs, and interests (which are far from the same thing). This isn't my first rodeo working cases with children. Many moons ago, before law school, I worked in Brockton, Massachusetts, as an Education Advocate (EA) attempting to obtain often expensive services for special needs children from public schools which didn't want to cough up the dough. But GAL cases are a whole different experience. Which brings me to the first thing I learned...

1) Parties’ credibility can be questionable. Including kids. Who hasn’t had an adult client who portrayed the facts in their most, ahem, favorable light? While working with kids as an EA, when I questioned children, I never had a reason to doubt them. It was simple—either they received their speech therapy that day or they didn’t. I was essentially an education cheerleader who sang the praises of my clients’ children. However, I realized through one particular GAL case, the answers I now seek are more complicated. Further, the ways children choose to interact with you are more complex. A pre-teen client appeared perfect on the outside—church-goer who received good grades and was a model for the other children in her home. However, as my investigation proceeded, and I met with teachers, and with the child herself I learned that my pre-teen client would frequently lie and was in desperate need of counseling. She would lie about anything and everything. At home she was the perfect angel: her Father oblivious to the bullying, stealing, and consistent lies at school. However, during my initial interview with the pre-teen, I had no idea. I began to that understand when you are examining a child’s credibility, discretion and judgment become a trickier business. I’ve never been in a position that demanded my examination of a child’s credibility far beyond the usual ‘coaching’ parents perform in custody cases. It threw me for a loop and challenged my expectations of the work itself. Which brings me to the second thing I learned…

2) Playing Detective is fun. At the end of your GAL investigation, you humbly submit your written Recommendation to the Judge, which explains your reasoning behind your custody recommendation. The Judge then gets to do whatever she wants with that information and make her final decision. While collecting this information, you get to evaluate all the facts you discovered while playing detective during your investigation and make a specific recommendation based on those facts. You get to do the digging yourself which is normally reserved for hiring out a specialist, like a forensic accountant in a divorce case. For the first time in my practice, I feel like I have a real impact on a child’s life based on my investigating and decision-making alone. And that is a pretty powerful and liberating, but weighty, charge. By doing your best to be straightforward, impartial, and transparent about your investigation and conclusions, you really better enable the Judge to make her best informed decision. To quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.



To conclude, I practice family law and have learned a multitude of new things about myself and my own practice of law through the challenges of Guardian ad Litem work. I can’t imagine how exhilarating it could be coming from a different line of practice, like estate planning or criminal law. You just may come out realizing that you, too, have the opportunity to take your practice blinders off.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Unemployment Benefits for Domestic Violence Survivors

By: Lindsey Siegel, Staff Attorney, Atlanta Legal Aid Society


AVLF, together with the Family Division of the Fulton County Superior Court and the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, operates the Safe Families Office at the Fulton County Courthouse to assist victims of domestic violence secure Temporary Protective Orders (TPO) and receive other assistance such as safety planning.  Many of our domestic violence clients continue to have legal problems after they are awarded a TPO. One common scenario is that an abuser comes to or constantly calls the victim’s workplace and that victim resigns or is fired as a result.  One study found that 74% of employed battered women were harassed by their partner while at work.  In the Safe Families Office, we constantly hear of batterers sabotaging a victim’s employment, sometimes in an effort to make the victim more dependent on them, in retaliation for asserting independence, or to find a victim who is in hiding.

Lindsey Siegel, Staff Attorney, Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Earlier this summer, I teamed up with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society to take an unemployment insurance case to the Georgia Court of Appeals.  The case came about after a domestic violence client of mine resigned from her job because the father of her two children appeared at her workplace and she feared for her life.   After her employer opposed her application for unemployment benefits, she was denied benefits.  I took her case on appeal of that denial.  The case is one of first impression in Georgia, as no court here has ever awarded a domestic violence survivor unemployment benefits after she resigns from her job because of the abuse.

About a year ago, this client’s former abuser and father of her two children (who wasn’t supposed to know where she worked or lived) showed up at her workplace.  Because the past abuse she experienced was so severe, because he wasn’t supposed to have any contact with her, and because she thought her location was hidden, his mere presence at her job terrified her.  When he showed up at her home a week later, she knew she had no choice but to escape to a domestic violence shelter.  She not only feared for her and her children’s safety, but she knew everyone at her job was in danger if she stayed.

And she had good reason to be afraid.  Those of you who saw the July 2013 New Yorker article on domestic violence know that there are certain high-risk factors that indicate a likelihood of being killed.  In our case, the abuser’s conduct toward our client met many of those indicators, including obsessive behavior, stalking, violation of court orders, and a history of severe physical abuse (including during her pregnancy).  Her workplace would not be immune to the threat of his violence.  As many of you likely remember, in Atlanta’s not-so-distant past employees at the CNN Center complex and the Bank of America building were murdered by their intimate partners at work.

As my two-year fellowship at AVLF comes to a close this week, I’m reflecting on our decision to pursue this case through the various levels of appeal.  Economic self-sufficiency is critical for our domestic violence clients, as it often decides whether they can afford to leave an abusive situation.  Like any other employee who faces an unsafe situation at work, victims should be free to resign without risking the loss of benefits they’ve earned.  I’m glad that AVLF has supported this work and I’m thrilled to be continuing my work on the case in my new position at Atlanta Legal Aid’s DeKalb Office.

AVLF has been a wonderful place to start my legal career, and I’m so thankful to them and to the Skadden Fellowship program for giving me the opportunity to work on so many interesting and important cases.  On a daily basis, the staff, volunteers, and interns at the Safe Families Office have impressed me.  Their work with domestic violence victims and survivors is challenging (to say the least) and requires commitment, tenacity, and sometimes even a sense of humor.  Although I’m starting a new chapter in my legal career, I look forward to supporting and staying connected to AVLF’s work in any way I can.


"Lindsey Siegel worked with AVLF for two years as a Fellow funded by the law firm of Skadden Arps.  She concluded her fellowship earlier this month and is now working as a staff attorney with the Decatur Office of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.  Through her fellowship, Lindsey focused on legal advocacy for domestic violence victims who encounter legal problems affecting their housing or employment.  We miss Lindsey already and are confident she will continue to do great work with Atlanta Legal Aid."


Thursday, August 1, 2013

AVLF: An Intern’s Perspective

By: Farley Ezekiel, Emory Law School, 2L


               When I started my first year of law school at Emory I knew that when I become an attorney I wanted to work closely with clients. I began interning at the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer’s Foundation in May 2013. I was not quite sure what to expect, but I was excited to work directly with clients. I was lucky enough to experience two sides of AVLF because I split my time between the Safe Families Office in the Fulton County Courthouse and the main office.
                In the main office I was able to perform research for actual cases. It was amazing to research landlord tenant law and then to follow Lindsey’s case as she represented a tenant fighting a landlord who was trying to obtain an eviction. In the classroom research is for a hypothetical problem, but seeing how research directly connects to a real life case that will greatly affect someone makes the heavy responsibility of being an attorney become clear.
The Safe Families Office is never boring, from interviewing clients to rushing to get clients to a hearing, the days fly by incredibly quickly. The most fulfilling part of my work is getting to work with clients. When our clients walk in the door they often do not know what to expect and are quite nervous. Talking clients through the process and getting them a temporary protective order is one of the best feelings. There is nothing better than when a client gives me a heartfelt thank you for my work.
One day a client’s abuser actually showed up in the clerk’s office while she was filing her temporary protective order. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a man approaching a client, and she was clearly terrified. Another member of the team called for the sheriffs. Meanwhile, I stood in front of the client and repeatedly told the Respondent that he could not speak with her and that he needed to leave immediately. After my heart stopped racing and I was able to help successfully ward off the abuser, it really sunk in that the work we do everyday has a very concrete effect on people who have endured domestic violence. I have walked dozens of people through obtaining a temporary protective order, but witnessing how this piece of paper tangibly protects people in abusive situations illustrates the importance of the Safe Families Office’s efforts. 

The first year of law school is full of many things: late nights studying, poring over civil procedure, and it all comes down to that final exam. The abstract concepts I am learning in law school are very different from the practical reality of being an attorney in the real world. During my summer interning for AVLF I was able to reconcile my classroom experience with the concrete reality of working on behalf of clients. I loved working for individual clients helping to protect them from abusers and harassers. My desire to work closely with clients in a family law context has only been strengthened after my experience working for AVLF. I believe that my legal education and my experiences at AVLF have set a solid foundation for a rewarding career in family law.