Public Interest Law Fellow Kimberly Adams Spends Summer Assisting the Community, Gaining Valuable Experience
DETROIT (Aug. 26, 2009) – When second-year Wayne State University Law School student and Public Interest Law Fellow Kimberly Adams was first given a placement working at the William Booth Legal Aid Clinic (WBLAC) she was a little apprehensive.
“The WBLAC deals mainly with family and criminal law matters, and a large number of its clients have substance abuse issues,” Adams said. “I have yet to take family or criminal law and hadn’t dealt too much with substance abuse issues, but I knew that I needed to get out of my academic comfort zone and jump in head first. Also, I thought that the practical experience gained at the clinic would definitely help me when I take those classes and in many life situations down the road.”
A respiratory therapist and evening law student, Adams studied women and gender studies at SUNY-Brockport prior to attending law school and has always held a desire to help disadvantaged individuals – especially women – take control of their legal issues and subsequently their lives.
“Many women are so focused on taking care of the physical and emotional needs of their family and others that they tend to not be involved in financial or other practical matters,” Adams said. “I want to use the law to help women empower themselves.”
Adams was one of 10 Wayne Law students selected to receive a $6,000 Public Interest Law Fellowship this past spring. The fellowships were created by the Law School in an effort to allow students additional opportunities to gain practical experience before graduation, ease financial stress and offer needed assistance to organizations providing legal services to underserved constituencies.
Adams began work with the WBLAC in June, working on various cases in the areas of family law, landlord/tenant disputes, debtor/creditor issues, criminal law and employment law. According to Adams, most cases involved letting tickets lapse, inability to pay child support, modifications in parenting time, trying to get creditors to approve payment plans for individuals whose bills are in collection status, and motions for divorce.
“My experiences at the [WBLAC] have allowed me to see the law through the eyes of the disadvantaged and impoverished,” she said. “There were many days that, while I got somewhat tired of seeing the same cases over and over again, it was great to see that our services help many individuals that fall through the cracks of our legal system.”
She added, “It was also nice to see people taking charge of rebuilding their lives through participating actively in their cases. Many times, individuals dealing with substance abuse problems are used to finding a way to escape their problems. Once you empower someone by educating them about the facts of their case, what they have done right or wrong, and what they need to do to rectify the situation, they generally become empowered to make a change in their lives.”
Though impacted by all the cases she worked on, the highlight of the summer, according to Adams, was being able to represent a client at a status conference in front of Wayne County Third Circuit Court Judge Connie Kelly, ’81, under the Michigan Student Practice Rule (8.120).
“Judge Kelly was very proud of the fact that she had a student attorney in court from her alma mater,” Adams said. “It was a great feeling knowing that people in the bar and on the bench know the fine caliber of students that Wayne Law nurtures each year to become successful attorneys.”
Adams, now finished with her placement, remains appreciative for the opportunity to work at the WBLAC.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve as a legal intern at the [WBLAC] and for the opportunity to be a Wayne Law Public Interest Law Fellow,” she said. “Working full-time at the Clinic while working on the weekends at Sinai-Grace as a respiratory therapist was difficult, but it was well worth it. I honestly can say that I will work with indigent clients in some respect after law school, though I’m not sure in what capacity.”
For now, Adams is geared up for another year of law school in which she will take Torts, Criminal Law and Elder Law courses, become more involved with the American Civil Liberties Union and Triangle Foundation in the area of African-American LGBT relations, and continue her work as a respiratory therapist at Sinai Grace Hospital.
About Wayne Law
Wayne State University Law School has educated and served the Detroit metropolitan area since its inception as Detroit City Law School in 1927. Located at 471 West Palmer Street in Detroit’s re-energized historic cultural center, the Law School remains committed to student success and features modern lecture and court facilities, multi-media and distance learning classrooms, a 250-seat auditorium, and the Arthur Neef Law Library, which houses one of the nation's 40 largest legal collections. Taught by an internationally recognized and expert faculty, Wayne Law students experience a high-quality legal education via a growing array of hands-on curricular offerings, client clinics, and access to well over 100 internships with local and non-profit entities each year. Its 11,000 living alumni, who work in every state of the nation and more than a dozen foreign countries, are experts in their disciplines and include leading members of the local, national and international legal communities. For more information, visit www.law.wayne.edu.