Name: Leonor Beatriz Suarez
Class Year: 2018
Minor: Political Science
Hometown: Orlando, Fla.
Internship Placement: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
Job Title: Intern
Location: Villanova, Pa.
What’s happening at your internship?
This summer, I was given the opportunity to intern at Villanova University’s School of Law. I have been working mainly under Professor Caitlin Barry in the Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic (FLAC) at Villanova. Most of the cases that FLAC sees involves undocumented immigrant and migrant farmworkers fighting deportation and/or unfair working conditions — it’s been an incredibly interesting and eye-opening experience for me, especially given the current political atmosphere.
The cases that I have seen over the summer have usually involved finding relief from deportation proceedings, which has often come in the form of asylum status for many of FLAC’s clients. Aside from engaging with clients and working on their cases, I have also helped Professor Barry create outreach materials for her many young clients to help them navigate the process of obtaining official documents such as photo IDs, work permits, and enrolling in afterschool programs. Professor Barry has also allowed me to observe her court appearances and attend a discussion in which she was a panelist for the city of Philadelphia’s annual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) conference.
When I am not helping Professor Barry with FLAC, I have split my time helping some of the other professors and paralegal in the clinic office, usually conducting intake calls or doing file maintenance for the Civil Justice and Federal Income Tax Clinic.
Why did you apply for this internship?
A few things motivated me to apply for the internship at Villanova’s Law School. The first reason is that I am planning on pursuing a legal education, and ultimately a career in the law, but have no immediate connections to lawyers or judges. I sought fist-hand experience in a law setting so that I would know better what the day-to-day looks like for a lawyer, and so I could better decide whether pursuing a legal career was the right move for me. The second reason is that I wanted to somehow be involved in a public-interest movement, and working with migrant and immigrant farmworkers was something I felt strongly about doing.
Overall, this internship has been invaluable for me; having the opportunity to work so closely with a law professor who is so passionate about her work has made me very excited about pursuing a career in law.
What has been your favorite part of this internship?
One of my favorite parts of this internship has been working under a law professor who truly loves both aspects of her job – directing FLAC and teaching the Clinic. Professor Barry would make it a point to explain the work she was doing, talk me through the decisions she made regarding her clients’ cases, and ask for my feedback. Rather than just giving me directives, she went out of her way to make sure that I understood not only what I was doing, but also why I was doing the things she was asking me to do. Because of that, I felt much more confident interacting with clients and performing my tasks in the Clinic. I also feel that I will be able to walk away from this internship having truly learned and understood at least some of the foundational aspects of the law involving immigrant and migrant farmworkers.
What is most rewarding about your internship?
The most rewarding part of this internship for me has been interacting with clients. As a philosophy major, most of my time and energy is directed at analyzing abstract thoughts, which is something I love to do, but at the same time it can leave me feeling a little unsatisfied. This internship has allowed me to see the tangible side of legal theory — to see law applied to a particular set of facts that ultimately has the power to change a person’s life. Many of the clients that FLAC saw this summer seem well positioned to receive relief from their deportation proceedings, which is the kind of palpable result that does leave me feeling satisfied.