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Leaders in Pro Bono Service

July 29, 2011
Through its direct access to practicing attorneys and firsthand service of low-income clients, the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic (CASAC) enriched the legal educations of Stephanie Brockman L’11 and Jesse Krohn L’11. Having served as advocates and leaders of the student-initiated project in 2011, Brockman and Krohn are now embarking on careers in very different sectors. Watch the videos below to find out more about their experiences at Penn Law.
CASAC provides legal assistance to low-income clients who need help with child custody and support issues. The project is run by Penn Law students with guidance from the School’s Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC), which supports more than twenty student-run pro bono projects.
While at Penn Law, Krohn was an associate editor for the Journal of Law and Social Change, Co-Director of the Public Interest Mentoring Initiative, Co-President of Penn Law for Reproductive Justice and an Advocate with the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic. She has worked at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, DC and at the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia. Next year she clerk for a year in the District of Maryland.
Brockman was enrolled in the interdisciplinary JD/MBA program with Penn Law and the Lauder Institute at Wharton, integrating international studies, advanced language and cross-cultural proficiencies, and the law. She was a Student Advocate for CASAC and Shift Manager of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law. Next year she will work at a firm in London, focusing on securities regulation.
Interview Transcript: Jesse Krohn
Penn has really great professors and I’ve had really good experiences in a lot of the courses and seminars that I have taken. But one common complaint about law school generally, and not Penn specifically, is that there is kind of a lacking of a practical aspect, and pro bono work really gives you that experience. In civil procedure you are learning about a complaint, and a complaint should be short and plain. But then when you do a pro bono project you might be actually drafting a complaint for somebody and that’s kind of an incomparable experience– to learn about the method and to actually practice it is really valuable.
I was really involved with the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic, which we call CASAC, and the name is pretty explanatory. What we do is we have students called “advocates” who work at Philadelphia Legal Assistance Clinic, at 15th and Chestnut Street, and they have clients who come in every week. You see one, two, three clients a week. They present you with a problem–  you see domestic violence, child custody, child support– and the advocate will listen to their problems, give them legal advice, and help them draft documents. If they are a 2 or 3L and have received certification from Pennsylvania, they can actually represent a client in court. It’s a really valuable project because a lot of the clients who come in don’t usually just have one problem; they have a lot of problems. And, a lot of the times you are the first person they’ve really gotten to speak to about it, who’s really listened and been able to give them targeted assistance. I really enjoyed doing that project and it meant a lot to me.
After graduating I am clerking for a year in the district of Maryland. Then I am hoping to throw myself back on the mercy of the public interest job market. One thing that I do like about the public interest center here at Penn is that they don’t emphasize that there is really only one way to do things. They make it so that public interest can be part of your career no matter how you want your career to be shaped. For example, I told you I was very involved with CASAC. The head of our organization, Stephanie, is going into the private bar. She’s not planning to do public interest as a career, but she still dedicated hundreds and hundreds of hours to working in public interest while she was in law school. I am sure that will stick with her and be a great part of her practice later on and I think that’s the kind of thing that TPIC fosters in people.
Interview Transcript: Stephanie Brockman
My name is Stephanie. While I was at Penn I was a joint degree student, so I got my JD and a Masters in international studies. I was also involved in CASAC, which is the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic, for three years.
I started with CASAC when I was a 1L, and I had no background in family law, which is what we do, but when I went to the public interest fair I knew I was looking for something where I would have the chance to work one-on-one with clients. And CASAC was the one group that stood out as really offering people that experience from your first year of law school.
CASAC is so intensely focused on giving people firsthand experience, working with low-income clients who will be representing themselves in custody and support cases.
I am going to London next year to work in securities regulation, so it is two completely different worlds, in some ways. A lot of those people management skills, going into a client interview knowing there are a lot of issues floating out there but that you can’t do your job unless you get to the legal issues, that’s something I think that really came with the CASAC experience.
As president of CASAC I had a lot of work to do, not only with our clients but also in terms of just managing our board and bringing people together for board meetings and figuring out what to do with a board meeting, how to plan an agenda. None of this was anything I had experience with so that was really where I started meeting with some of the people at the public interest center on a semi-regular basis. But they were very supportive, gave me a lot of good advice in terms of how to manage people and how to really run a non-profit, which was a wonderful resource to have.