Spring break is March 18-22 for students at the UI College of Law. Instead of taking a rest or heading to the beach, 12 students will take advantage of a unique educational and public service opportunity through the Citizen Lawyer Program’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in Des Moines. This inaugural service-learning trip will give students interaction with and experience working for state legislators, alumni, state court judges, and more. The students also will have the opportunity to assist Iowa Legal Aid with finding local attorneys to volunteer to represent some of Legal Aid’s current cases.
During this trip, students attend a three-day legal workshop conducted by Brenna Findley, Legal Counsel for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, and are partnered with Iowa legislators to attend committee meetings and debate, or assist with the legislator’s work. The students researched Iowa’s legislators in advance to learn about the types of issues they work on and to identify a potential partner for the week.
In addition, participants will tour the Capitol building, attend alumni socials, have breakfast with The Honorable Stephanie Rose, ’96 and The Honorable Celeste Bremer, ’77, have lunch with state court judges at the Polk County courthouse, meet Helen Adams, ’88, Associate General Counsel for Pioneer Hi-Bred, and have lunch with the leadership of the Iowa House and Senate, and David Roederer, State Budget Director and Director of the Iowa Department of Management.
The College has three additional ASB trips available to students.
In its second year, the Latino Law Students Association Alternative Spring Break participants help provide legal research that enables agency volunteers to better represent the construction workers and day laborer clients at the Workers Defense Project. Most of the legal research focuses on labor & employment law, OSHA regulations, and workers compensation claims. Eleven volunteers will work at the Workers Defense Project, a nonprofit group that focuses on wage theft, a major problem in Texas, particularly among undocumented workers. The organization has only one volunteer attorney but counts on a large staff of volunteers to help workers recover unpaid wages from large corporations and construction companies. Annai Escobedo, ’14, an organizer of the trip and a participant in 2012, says, “The trip was a great learning and bonding experience with my peers. We were able to provide substantial legal information to the volunteers at the Workers Defense Project.”
This year, the COL will send 11 students to Chicago ASB, a program now in its third year. Volunteers will provide legal services at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, performing tasks such as research, writing policy recommendations, and interviewing potential clients. In the process, students gain valuable legal experience and contacts that will serve them well in their future careers. More importantly, this trip provides a perspective on the role of lawyers in urban communities and emphasizes the obligation of legal professionals to give back. Ashley Gleckler, ’15, is organizing this year’s trip.
New Orleans (NOLA)
NOLA is an ASB legal aid trip. Students have the opportunity to work with a variety of New Orleans legal organizations on a range of projects – from environmental issues to fair housing to immigration. In 2006, the Equal Justice Foundation and the COL established the trip, which gives students the chance to put their legal skills to use in the interest of justice. The work is a real, substantive contribution to a community that can certainly use the help. Students work in a variety of locations including, Public Defenders Office, District Attorney’s Office, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, and the NO/AIDS Task Force. Raechel Bimmerle, ’14, is organizing the trip. “I attended last year, and it allowed me to see how the work I will do as an attorney affects real people in a meaningful way,” she says.