June 2019 Volunteer Spotlight - City Bar Justice Center Pro Bono Scholar Angel Nwachukwu and Extern Bomy Hwang

Third Year Law Students Jump into NYC Practice

Law students continue to fan out across New York City nonprofit legal services offices providing important pro bono assistance to low income New Yorkers. Columbia Law School Pro Bono Scholar Angel Nwachukwu and Vermont Law Student Extern Bomy Hwang spent this past semester at the City Bar Justice Center, working with the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project and Immigrant Justice Project respectively. The Pro Bono Scholar and Extern Programs introduce current and recently graduated law students to pro bono work, showing how pro bono operates as a rich part of a lawyer’s professional life. At the end of their programs, Angel and Bomy reflected on their work at the Justice Center, and shared some key insights and takeaways from their time there.

Angel Nwachukwu became interested in working at the City Bar Justice Center during her last semester at Columbia Law, because of the hands-on client experience the program offered. Like many law students, she was eager to work with clients after spending so much time in class. As Angel said,

"Learning about legal theories in the classroom does not compare to picking up a phone and calling a client, or meeting with one face to face. My favorite part about working with the CBJC is that the project teams are small so I get real responsibility and real work. In just a short amount of time, I have gained the confidence necessary to effectively engage with clients directly."

Having gone to law school because of her interests in the intersection between business strategy and the law, Angel found her work with the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP) particularly rewarding. NELP provides free legal services to low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs, which are often vital given the complicated and expensive legal requirements for starting a business. In Angel’s words, “The clients have amazing business ideas and just need the legal tools to guide them forward.” Using her economics background and legal education together for the first time, Angel reviewed business plans, brainstormed ideas, and assisted in deciding what legal entities will best serve the client’s needs.

Angel encourages other law students who are interested in gaining substantive experience and client contact to consider participating in CBJC’s Pro Bono Scholars Program or similar programs. Summarizing her time at the Justice Center, she simply said, “The experience has made me feel like a real lawyer who is making a tangible impact.” Angel is entering legal practice this fall as an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

For Bomy Hwang, a recent graduate of the University of Vermont Law School, her externship at the Justice Center’s Immigrant Justice Project (IJP) affirmed her commitment to work in immigration law. IJP assists asylum seekers, victims of violence and trafficking, DACA applicants, and others seeking immigration relief. During her time at the Justice Center, Bomy said that she “learned the complexity of the immigration system,” as she performed various tasks to help survivors of crime, victims of human trafficking, and refugees. Her work included conducting intake interviews, drafting applications submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and

Immigration Services, assisting with an adjustment-of-status clinic, attending hearings at an immigration court and federal district court, and researching legal issues and country conditions.

Bomy described the value of her experience at CBJC in the following way:

"It is astonishing how deep I was able to delve into immigration law in a relatively short period. I owe much to the Immigrant Justice Project, which took care to choose projects that would deliver new, rewarding experiences. I cherished every opportunity to learn, observe, and reflect."

Bomy is beginning her new role as a clerk for a judge in Rockville, CT this summer.

The City Bar Justice Center wishes Angel and Bomy much success in their future careers as attorneys and thanks them for their almost 1,000 pro bono hours of assistance to low income New Yorkers. The Pro Bono Scholar and Externship Programs provide invaluable support to the Justice Center, and introduce current and recently graduated law students to pro bono work. As Justice Center Director Lynn Kelly says, “The Pro Bono Scholar and Externship Programs are a wonderful way to expose third year law students and new lawyers to people who can’t afford legal assistance. The City Bar Justice Center has benefited tremendously from these programs, and we were delighted to host Angel and Bomy this past semester.”

Pro Bono Scholars and Externs may apply through their law schools in early Fall 2019 for Spring 2020.

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Interested in volunteering?  Start searching for pro bono opportunities by interest area (e.g. family, asylum), community served (e.g. domestic violence victims, children) or location right now by using our interactive NY Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!