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Pro Bono Spotlight August 2004

By Chanel Broadus, PBA Pro Bono Office Intern

Pennsylvania Legal Services (PLS) and the statewide legal services community gathered at the Dauphin County Bar Association in Harrisburg on Aug. 10, 2004, for a reception honoring the 2004 Martin Luther King Jr. interns. The reception recognized 10 outstanding interns who worked this summer with various Pennsylvania legal services programs throughout the commonwealth. More than 240 minority law students have received civil legal aid experience through the Martin Luther King Jr. Internship Program conducted under the auspices of PLS during the past 13 years. The Martin Luther King Jr. Internship Program, which is funded by the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers Trust Account Board and receives financial support from the Department of Public Welfare, is designed to encourage minority law students to pursue careers in civil legal aid.

After welcoming remarks by Jeffrey Ernico, president of the PLS Board of Directors, students Dionne R. Wiggins, an intern for Philadelphia Legal Assistance and Ishamel P. Alejo, an intern for the Pennsylvania Law Project, gave brief speeches about their summer experiences. PLS President Ernico and PLS Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia G. Newcomer then presented each intern with a certificate commemorating their experience. PLS Executive Director Samuel W. Milkes closed the program and noted that the Martin Luther King Jr. Internship Program was being expanded to include post-law school fellowships in 2004-05. Plans call for three two-year fellowships to be funded for the next year. Anyone interested in exploring a possible King Fellowship should contact Cynthia Newcomer at PLS at (717) 236-9486, Ext. 216 or at cnewcomer@palegalservices.org.

Through their speeches, the students explained that their internship opportunities were priceless to them. Excerpts from articles written by each of the students for the 2004 composition booklet, The Drum Major, which is an annual publication of the program, further underscores the value the students found in working in the world of legal services.

Zarinah Akbar; Northwestern Legal Services; Bugs, Bats, Erie, Oh My!!
“This program has taught me that public interest law is one of the most important and fulfilling practices one could enter ... You do it because you have a desire to make a difference in the community.”

Ishmael P. Alejo; Pennsylvania Law Project; How Can I Help?
“My experience during the summer not only has reinforced my desire to serve the public, but also has encouraged me to pursue a career in legal services.”

Rafiah Davis; Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania; Our Client
“I felt so much better about trying to help a client get her life back together.”

Lynval G. Gray; Community Justice Project; Poor
“I am overworked, underpaid, and not appreciated
Society’s doormat, abused, and hated
They call me lazy, a wart society
They cast down moral condemnation rather than helping me.”

Claudia Junghwa Kim; Community Legal Services; Keeping A Roof Over Someone’s Head
“Ms. Undisclosed will not be evicted. She also will not have to pay late fees or total court costs. I wish I could see Ms. Undisclosed’s face when she tells her children that they will not have to move ... I can imagine - and it makes all the work and effort worth it.”

Jocelyn Mallory; North Penn Legal Services; A Different Perspective On Life
“The internship not only has been a precious learning tool, but also a rewarding life experience. There are so many luxuries in life that people take for granted. But to interact everyday with individuals seeking legal counsel who has so little, will definitely give you a different perspective on life.”

Ernest L. Poland Jr.; Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services; ... And Justice For All?
“I have learned that sometimes it is not the winning or losing. In fact it is not even the fight that maters. What should matter most to us is what matters to the nine digit case number. We cannot always win; but we can always listen.”

Candace Ragin; Neighborhood Legal Services; What I Learned This Summer
“Neighborhood Legal Services impressed on me the importance of the human face of law and coevally dispelled my sentiment that unadulterated victory is what truly matters; sometimes the law allows only for a qualified win. Progress, however humble, is what matters.”

Jacob Stipe; Mid-Penn Legal Services; Hopeful
“My time at Mid-Penn has been wonderful, and I believe that I have found a new direction and purpose in my own life that will be to advocate for those people who are impoverished.”

Dionne Wiggins; Pennsylvania Legal Assistance; The Don’t Borrow Trouble Hotline: A Response to An Outcry For Help
“There is no glamour, fame or fortune in practicing public interest law, but there is the satisfaction of knowing that you played a major role in preventing a crisis from occurring in someone’s life. In my eyes there is no value that can be placed on such an accomplishment.”