During college I worked at a homeless shelter for youth. The kids would be really nervous about court, and sometimes they would reach out to their lawyers for advice. Too often, they wouldn’t hear back. Without good advice and counseling from their lawyers, they would develop unrealistic expectations about what would happen at court, then be devastated when they returned to the shelter.
My frustration with the quality of counsel for kids is part of what made me apply to law school. Now I head the children’s rights clinic at Drake Law School, where we represent children in delinquency and child welfare cases. The students do the heavy lifting, and I provide backup to deal with the twists and turns that come. I’m also co-chair of the ABA’s Children’s Rights Litigation Committee.
Our committee provides practical help for lawyers who want to improve legal representation for children. When we schedule a committee meeting, we often connect with the local lawyers and juvenile court judges to learn from them and offer training and technical assistance. That’s why I like being a part of this group: it provides meaningful opportunities for me to grow as a lawyer, as well as helps raise the bar for lawyers representing children around the country.
People working for improvements in child representation often face opposition because of tight budgets and incorrect assumptions about value of lawyering for children. It’s a tremendous advantage to have the ABA, and the thousands of lawyers who are part of it, amplifying our voices. The ABA makes a real difference on behalf of kids. And, that’s not a need that gets met by other associations.