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We Asked Our Interns...

We Asked Our Interns...

Each year, our law student interns work on a variety of interesting and important projects. Our internship program allows law students to gain valuable experience and expand their knowledge of public interest law. From helping clients get the public benefits to which they are entitled, to participating in a criminal record expungement clinic, to helping families keep their utilities turned on, our interns are making a huge difference in the lives of low-income Philadelphians. We recently asked our law students what they are working on. Here's what they told us.

“So far this summer, I’ve been managing client cases, attending court proceedings as well as attending case plan meetings that the clients have. I’ve also just finished working on an appeal for a sadly prevalent issue in Child Dependency proceedings where the rights of the parent(s) are terminated before the child has found an adoptive home.” – Shirlene Alseed, Family Advocacy Unit

"After a series of bad cases that came out, I've been drafting a memo on potential means of recovering attorney fees for our lawyers in situations where lenders have violated pre-foreclosure notice requirements. I am also currently working to obtain a loan modification for a client who is seeking to assume her mother's mortgage after her mother passed away. Recently, I've written complaints, answers, and discovery projects to fight mortgage foreclosure lawsuits and ensure that lenders and loan servicers have treated our clients lawfully throughout the foreclosure process." - Emily Bao, Homeownership and Consumer Rights Unit

“This summer I’ve been working on a wide variety of public benefits cases and advocacy projects.  My successes thus far include securing a client six months of retroactive SNAP coverage, and advocating for the rescission of a client’s overpayment charge of $3,855.  I have enjoyed looking for evidence to support clients facing Intentional Program Violations, helping vulnerable populations with applications for benefits, and drafting flyers and comments for the LIHEAP Proposed State Plan.  I have also taken on some projects in conjunction with other units, such as a language access complaint and a social security suspension, the latter of which was recently resolved resulting in a payment of nearly $40,000 to our client!” – Anne Bonfiglio, Public Benefits Unit

“This summer I have spent most of my time helping with appeals for people who have been denied SSI disability benefits.  I am currently writing a request for an on the record review for a child, in an attempt to get her benefits approved without the need for a hearing.  Also, I will very soon get to represent a client in a hearing for the first time.”  – Chris Brigante, SSI Unit

“This summer I have had the opportunity to assist families in restoring their utility services and obtain affordable payment arrangements. I have been successful in doing so by helping clients apply and attain approval for the Customer Responsibility Programs that utility companies offer to low-income individuals. In one case, I assisted a client who frequently encounters obstacles obtaining customer status and payment agreements from the Water Department. I helped her enroll in an affordable payment agreement with the Water Revenue Bureau. As a result, the client was approved for an agreement for $34 per month. It has been a truly rewarding experience.” – Shahirah Brown, Energy Unit

“I have had the opportunity to work with clients in expunging their criminal records, both in preparing petitions, and representing them in expungement court. I have also worked on several wage claims, helping clients to recoup their unpaid wages. Currently, I am working with two clients who work as home health care workers. Due to a recent change in the law—resulting from a win in the Peake case brought by CLS attorneys, which held unconstitutional the lifetime bans that prohibit the employment of people with certain criminal convictions in the home health care industry—I am able to help my clients keep their jobs.” – Tessa Carlson, Employment Unit

“As the Youth Justice Project intern, I have worked with young adults facing a variety of challenges, including criminal records and loss of SSI benefits. I have prepared and filed juvenile expungement petitions, interviewed clients in preparation for SSI hearings, and conducted clinics at a youth homeless shelter and an alternative high school. I am also doing research on the use of criminal history records in college admissions and by the federal Job Corps program. Later in the summer, I will represent an SSI client at an ALJ hearing.” – Matthew Feldman, Youth Justice Project

“I have spent most of my summer communicating with the welfare office and working with clients to help them stay connected to benefits. My clients seek support from a variety of programs, including Medical Assistance, TANF, and SNAP. I have also worked on several Emergency Medical Assistance cases, requesting and reviewing medical records for undocumented clients who need to prove they have an urgent condition. With assistance from my supervising attorneys, I have been able to interview clients, research legal problems, and help a number of our clients resolve their legal problems.” – Olivia Horton, Public Benefits Unit

“I have been assisting low-income Philadelphians obtain affordable utility service. After interviewing clients, I have enough information to effectively advocate for them when contacting utility companies. Because of this, many of our clients have been put on affordable payment terms with service restored. Also, I’ve been researching and drafting legal memos analyzing constitutional issues affecting our clients.” - Eric Macias Intriago, Energy Unit

“So far this summer in the Housing Unit I have worked with 30 clients to give them legal information and advice. I have prepared clients for landlord/tenant hearings in Municipal Court, assisted clients in filing appeals to termination of their Section 8 vouchers, and advised tenants who are illegally locked out of their homes. I performed outreach at a clinic at Ardella’s House to evaluate clients for expungements and redactions of their criminal records, and I am currently working with clients who have been denied affordable housing due to their criminal records. I have assisted the unit’s managing attorney with research on Fair Chance at Housing laws that protect people against discrimination based on their criminal histories with the goal of creating new legislation in Pennsylvania.” – Nora Kenty, Housing Unit

“I spend my time working with clients who are facing property tax foreclosure and fighting to keep their homes. I help homeowners apply for various hardship programs and make sure that they are aware of their rights throughout the foreclosure process. Recently, I’ve been assisting a client who has been hit with an enormous property tax bill after years of believing her mortgage company had been making the payments.” – Sydney Pierce, Homeownership & Consumer Rights Unit

“I work with individuals with disabilities in securing necessary benefits and services. I have been interviewing clients, reviewing medical records, and helping my clients solve issues they are having with the Social Security Administration (SSA). I am also preparing a report on how the SSA’s field offices serve clients who have a limited English proficiency.  I will soon represent a client at a hearing before an administrative law judge.” – Amelia Vangellow, Aging & Disabilities Unit

“Because I am bilingual, I have had the opportunity to interview and assist clients in Spanish with their claims of abusive employer practices ranging from pregnancy discrimination to wage theft. I prepared a mechanics’ lien on behalf a client to pressure the employer to pay the wages our client is owed for the work he performed. I have also assisted in the advocacy of clients facing barriers to employment specifically with preparation of expungement petitions, child abuse registry removal advocacy, and employer advocacy letters which inform the employer what criminal history, if any, may be considered in hiring.” – Jennifer Willis, Employment Unit

“This summer, I have most enjoyed working with clients who are appealing their placement on the child abuse registry. Before my work here, I did not realize how many people are placed are on the registry not due to allegations that they physically abused their child, but allegations that they ‘failed to protect’ their child from another person’s physical abuse. In one case, Child Line placed a woman on the child abuse registry because a man physically abused her children and the Department of Human Services did not believe the woman did enough to protect her children from his abuse. However, the man was also abusive to the woman and the woman feared retaliation against both her and her children if she were to report the man. Working with this survivor who is trying to retain employment after escaping an abusive relationship has been both eye-opening and fulfilling.” – Lizzy Wingfield, Employment Unit