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Just Thoughts is the blog of the Empire Justice Center, New York’s statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. Here staff and guest authors will share stories, announcements and perspectives on timely issues related to our work.    

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Summer 2014: A Great Experience for our Diversity Fellow, Tianna Bethune!

Issue Area: Consumer

Written by Tianna Bethune, Empire Justice Center 2014 Diversity Fellow

This summer, I had the opportunity to move back to my hometown of Rochester, New York and work with an extraordinary group of attorneys at Empire Justice Center.  With great pleasure, I accepted the position as the first Diversity Fellow and I am very glad that I did!  This summer has been full of fulfilling learning experiences.  I was given the opportunity to work directly with clients, attend a mediation session, help prepare a case to be filed in federal court and more!  I am especially appreciative of my supervisors Peter Dellinger, Reyna Ramolete and Bryan Hetherington.  They afforded me the privilege to work in an environment free from micromanagement where I was able to put my research, writing and time management skills to the test.

I was introduced to three new areas of law: consumer law, real estate law and employment law.  In consumer law, I worked on a case that required me to gain experience in contracts, specifically the nuances associated with exculpatory clauses.  In the area of real estate, I assisted a client by researching transactions, fraud, misrepresentation and warranties.  In the employment law context, I calculated damages, wrote a complaint and prepared the documents to file a Fair Labor Standards Act case in federal court.  The diversity in my work load allowed me to narrow my focus on what I would like to do after graduation.  This is invaluable in that every student fears making the mistake of accepting a position that they dread being in after law school. 

In addition, I was given the opportunity to write a policy memorandum for Bryan Hetherington, Chief Counsel in the Rochester office.  As a student, it was priceless to receive direct mentorship from a leader in the legal community.  Mr. Hetherington actually took the time to read each of my drafts, while patiently guiding me through the writing process.  This was a tremendous learning experience because my law school courses had not prepared me to simultaneously advocate to both members and non-members of the legal community.

I decided to apply for a position with Empire Justice Center because their commitment to serving the community and giving back is aligned with my interests.  I would definitely recommend other law students who are interested in public interest law to apply for a position with this organization.  The environment cultivated by the individuals in this office is very relaxed, welcoming and inspiring.  I am truly grateful for the experience.

Tags: Diversity Fellowship