WRC news 2013 - Student View

LAS-ELC

Putting Justice to Work

 The Workers’ Rights Clinic Newsletter

Ann Munene

The Workers’ Rights Clinic: Transforming the Lives of Clients and Students

BY ANN MUNENE

Participating in the Workers’ Rights Clinic has been one of the most powerful experiences of my law school career. Under the supervision of amazing attorneys, I got to help real people and apply the lessons of my law school coursework to real world problems. I am thrilled to be back at Legal Aid as a summer law clerk so I can deepen my understanding of employment law while continuing to provide legal assistance to low-wage workers.

I’ve always felt called to help people access needed resources that might otherwise be unattainable. I immigrated to the U.S. with my family when I was in high school, and I started working with young immigrants from my community. While helping recently arrived immigrants adjust to a new environment, I realized the importance of employment and the need for all people to have a way to ensure their workplace rights.

The first year of law school was exciting for me, but I also felt bogged down with courses that sometimes made me wonder why I came to law school in the first place. At the Clinic, I was able to actualize what had motivated me to enter the legal profession: helping vulnerable people access justice.

One of my Clinic clients was a Spanish-speaking man who came in for help on my last night as a Clinic counselor. He was experiencing discrimination at his construction job, and his employer had threatened to call immigration authorities if he complained. This gentleman had such a hard time as he tearfully told his story; it was clear he was in a place of fear and hopelessness. But I saw a transformation take place as he learned that he had rights. As we departed he appreciatively shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “You have given me hope.”

This kind of transformation is what the Clinic makes possible—not just for clients, but also for students like me. I came to the Workers’ Rights Clinic with a desire to help working poor people, and I left feeling like I had not only helped, but had advanced on the road toward a career in employment law. I love to empower people to realize their potential and overcome obstacles—the Workers’ Rights Clinic showed me that I can dedicate my career to doing just that.