How the Alexander Community Law Center Became My Professional Launch Pad
Colin T. Murphy ‘13
I never planned on doing pro bono work during or after law school. By the time I entered law school, I figured I had already done my civic duty by tutoring at-risk youth and by participating in baseball clinics for kids. Once a law student, I planned on spending the following three years focused on homework and, more importantly, finding post-bar employment.
I started in the part-time [option] with the plan of becoming a full-time student during my second year. I suspected that the transition would put me at a disadvantage when looking for a summer clerkship after my first year. As a part-time student, I felt that my full-time peers had more immediate and better venues to gain real legal experience and training. Nevertheless, I tried my luck during the first summer. I secured three interviews, but I wasn’t hired for any of those jobs. Each prospective employer had the same response: “Come back when you have some experience.”
A bit frustrated, I sought the advice of a third-year friend. She recommended that I take the Skills I course at the Alexander Community Law Center. There, I would get to work directly under the supervision of an attorney, receive critical feedback about my work and performance, and most importantly, help change someone’s life. That sounded great. It brought to mind my invaluable experience of working with disadvantaged youth and the joy and satisfaction of watching kids grow up, graduate from high school and attend college thanks to baseball, which kept them from getting into trouble. I took my friend’s advice and decided to sign up for a class at the Alexander Community Law Center (the “Law Center”, as is more commonly known).
My friend was right. Working at the Law Center has been the most valuable experience I have had during law school. I worked under the supervision of Margarita Prado Alvarez, a well-respected attorney, in the Worker’s Rights Practice. This allowed me to work with realclients who had real problems that needed solutions. In fact, I had to opportunity to take three cases before the Labor Commission, all of which we won. At the Labor Commission, I also negotiated a settlement which resulted in an impasse, but the defendant was found liable for many thousands of dollars in favor of our client. I had to give opening statements and closing arguments, present evidence, and conduct both direct and cross-examinations, among other things.
The Community Law Center also gave me the opportunity to work with Marisol Escalera, Irene Cermeño and other great staff members and colleagues. Any time I had a question, they stopped whatever they were doing to help me. (After clerking at a mid-sized firm, I can attest to just how invaluable it is to have colleagues who are willing to help an inexperienced law student).
Around the middle of the semester at the Law Center, I tried my chances again to find a summer clerkship at a firm – only this time I did have some valuable experience. As fate would have it, I was fortunate to receive a paid summer internship at a San Francisco firm where I had my own office on the twentieth floor of a building in the Financial District.
During the job interview, I was able to talk about the type of work I had been doing at the Law Center and what that experience had been like. But what mostly impressed the hiring partner was the fact that I had to reschedule my second interview due to a hearing at the Labor Commission for one of my Law Center clients. The partner told me: “Colin, you put your client first. That is what this business is all about.” Thanks to my experience and the great mentoring from the Law Center attorneys and staff, my summer internship turned into a full-time, post-bar offer. For that, I am forever grateful and will continue to encourage my 1L and 2L peers to sign up for courses at the Law Center during law school.
My time at the Alexander Community Law Center was very well spent
I actually interned at the Public Defender’s office in San José before coming to the Law Center. But my experience here has been unique. I really enjoyed the hands-on experience and the fact that I had real control and responsibility for my cases. I feel that I did make a difference for my clients.