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Protecting Consumer Rights

September 05, 2023

At Greater Boston Legal Services, Rae Fanella L’25 flexed their lawyering skills representing clients in court while working in the Consumer Rights Unit.

Over the summer, I had the privilege of interning at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), a legal aid organization that provides free legal assistance and civil representation to low-income individuals. Their work seeks to help families and individuals living in poverty, elders, and people with disabilities to secure the basic necessities of life.

I worked in GBLS’ Consumer Rights Unit. I was drawn to consumer rights because this work is fundamental to a career in public interest. So many areas of the law aim to protect the “right to” something. However, I wanted to explore how to help people access and secure the “means to” those rights.

Public Interest Lawyering

At the start, I was in court every week. I assisted the attorneys in their Lawyer for the Day (LFD) Clinic, a program that provides free legal advice and representation to defendants in small claims cases against multi-billion-dollar corporate plaintiffs. In 2019, the attorneys in the Consumer Rights Unit saved their clients, in total, one million dollars. Needless to say, I was grateful for the opportunity to see them in action every week. Initially, I supported the clinic by conducting client intakes; by the end of the summer, I represented GBLS clients in small claims court.

Later in the summer, I worked on a federal case involving a repeat player in unlawful debt collection practices. I drafted deposition and subpoena notices as well as requests for discovery documents, and I researched key legal questions to formulate our litigation strategy. Some of my other projects involved fraud, economic abuse, student loans, and wage garnishment.

Leveraging Legal Practice Skills

When I look back at my first year of school, Legal Practice Skills (LPS) with Senior Lecturer Silvia Diaz undoubtedly was critical in preparation for my summer internship. Notably, our mock oral argument exercise gave me the confidence to argue in front of clerk-magistrates in multiple small claims courts around Boston.

The research skills I gained in LPS were invaluable to researching an area of law with little precedent. Additionally, I dusted off my outline and returned to some of the course materials from “Civil Procedure” with Catherine Struve, David E. Kaufman & Leopold C. Glass Professor of Law. I walked through the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure while I drafted discovery requests and helped draft key legal questions for depositions. Over the summer, I felt gratitude for Professor Diaz and Professor Struve who are incredible instructors and kind individuals who created a welcoming space to learn new, challenging material.

My summer internship would not have been possible without funding from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Justin Hamano Memorial Fellowship and Equal Justice America’s Fellowship. With financial support, I was able to actualize a career in public interest. Now, I feel energized to dive into my fall externship at the AIDS Law Project here in Philadelphia and continue my path toward working as a public interest attorney.

Pathways to the Profession highlights Penn Carey Law students and post-graduate fellows as they launch impactful legal careers. From summer internships in the private sector to public interest post-graduate fellowships, these firsthand accounts of substantive legal work demonstrate the myriad opportunities available to Penn Carey Law students and graduates as they hone their skills and advance their career goals.

Originally from Southern California, Rae Fanella L’25 aspires to integrate the tenets of community lawyering into their public interest career.

Discover more of our students’ Pathways to the Profession.