Law Students Serve the State this Summer
Every summer since 1983, MJF has sponsored summer clerkships. Students work full time during the summer at legal aid offices and public interest organizations across the state, providing their placement agencies with intensive help with casework, research, legal writing, client intake, interviewing, and even courtroom representation. Since the program began, 587 MJF-funded summer clerks have provided ten weeks of full-time service benefiting low-income and disadvantaged clients.
The 18 placement agencies in the summer of 2015 will provide services at legal aid programs serving client needs in the following areas: women’s safety, Native American law, immigration, criminal law, family law, disability law, youth law, and consumer and housing law, in both the metro area and in greater Minnesota.
Organizations like these are struggling with limited resources, making it difficult for them to provide necessary assistance to the client populations they serve. Agencies are able to increase their service capacity by 25% when they have a summer clerk
Thank you to the agencies who generously supervise and guide our clerks each summer and thank you to the students who provide such excellent service.
Agency Profile: HOME Line
HOME Line provides free legal, organizing, educational and advocacy services so tenants throughout Minnesota can solve their own rental housing problems. HOME Line works to improve public and private policies relating to rental housing by involving affected tenants in the process.
Founded in 1992, HOME Line’s major programs include a statewide tenant hotline (services expanded to include the City of Minneapolis in 2014), tenant organizing, and policy advocacy.
Student volunteers have been engaged in HOME Line’s work since at least 1998. Throughout the year, law students volunteer on HOME Line’s tenant hotline, helping staff attorneys field questions from tenants around the state. The hotline received an average of 1,284 calls per month in 2014!
Additionally, incoming students have volunteered with HOME Line through MJF’s Pre-Orientation Service Projects (POSP) program for over a decade. HOME Line hosted a POSP project for several years that engaged students in conducting an annual survey of rental property in the Twin Cities. During the foreclosure crisis, students helped with the Tenants in Foreclosure Project, a multi-year community education project through which students visited tenants in properties facing foreclosure and provided informational brochures about tenants’ rights.
Over the past decade, law students have volunteered over 8,000 hours at HOME Line. Here are some of their insights on the volunteer experience:
“I was [able] to help people who are in desperate need of assistance in situations involving their basic needs and home/family.”
“Volunteering with HOME Line was great. Merely educating a client on his or her tenant rights was usually enough to put the law back on the tenant’s side. That was very powerful!”
“This was a valuable volunteering experience because it enabled me to interact with clients immediately. HOME Line served as a practical addition to the largely theoretical work in a law school classroom.”
Jason Hafemann is entering his second year at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Fall 2015.
Many incoming students are excited about beginning to connect to the legal community as soon as they can. One of the ways MJF facilitates this is by working with local agencies that provide legal and law-related services on setting up group and individual projects that utilize incoming first years’ talents and enthusiasm as well as help them to acclimate to working in a legal setting, teaching professionalism, helping them to understand what the agencies do and the impact they have on the greater community. This program is called the Pre-Orientation Service Project (POSP).
In 2014, Mr. Hafemann began volunteering for HOME Line as a part of POSP and continued there throughout his first year. He states that the best part of working with HOME Line is that students get to work directly with people and help provide them with real solutions to problems that they are currently facing. HOME Line is a very flexible opportunity, but also provides students with a challenge. Jason says, “It requires you to know your stuff because you never know what kind of question you are going to get next.” Learning to think on your feet is excellent training for law students.
When asked whether working at HOME Line has him, he states, “Working with HOME Line keeps me grounded. In school, you learn about complex matters and things that don’t really affect a lot of people. HOME Line reminds me that the justice system works to help everyday people just as much as others, even the problem isn’t worth a lot of money.”
Jason grew up on a small farm west of the cities and credits his parents for his strong work ethic and desire to improve. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and International Studies from University of Minnesota, Duluth. Before coming to law school, he worked at the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office for two years in the Consumer Division. This summer, he is working as a law clerk at Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in the Child Support Division and as a research assistant at his law school. In his spare time, he likes to stay active by helping out on the family farm and playing volleyball.
Victoria J. Brenner is a partner at Collins, Buckley, Sauntry, & Haugh, where she practices family law and lawyers’ professional responsibility. Victoria helped co-found the Minnesota Justice Foundation’s Student Chapter at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2001, and graduated in the inaugural class of 2004. As a student she was encouraged to practice law holistically and to give back to the bar and the community through professionalism and volunteerism.
Victoria currently serves as the Chair to the Minnesota Justice Foundation’s Board of Directors, participating in the Executive, Finance and Membership committees. She enjoys “serving an organization that stands for promoting volunteerism among the bar,” as well as working with lawyers from diverse practice areas and firm sizes. “It is an impressive cross-section of our community who believe strongly in providing access to justice to those who cannot easily obtain it without the help of the legal service agencies we support.” When asked about how her participation with MJF has affected her growth as a lawyer, she asserts, “It has deepened my commitment to serving pro bono clients even when I don’t believe I have time to do so.”
In addition to Chairing MJF’s Board, Victoria serves as a delegate for the Ramsey County Bar Association to the Minnesota State Bar Association Assembly, on the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (Minnesota Chapter) Annual Conference Planning and Sponsorship Committees, and volunteers with the Hennepin County Limited Scope Legal Services Program and Tubman/Chrysalis.