April 20, 2023
Legal Clinic Leaders Series — Brenda Martinez
Meet the students who work directly with and in the community to provide quality legal representation to underserved individuals through our Legal Clinic Leaders blog series. We're excited to spotlight these all-star advocates and showcase the many different fields of law you can explore through our legal clinics and the wide range of opportunities available at Southwestern to gain practical lawyering skills. We hope their experiences will inspire YOU to join a legal clinic.
Meet 2L Brenda Martinez
- Children's Rights Clinic, Fall 2022
Why did you decide to participate in a clinic?
I participated in the Children's Rights Clinic because I wasn't sure I knew why I was in law school by the end of my first year. It can be easy to lose yourself in law school, and I needed a reminder of my "why." From prior experience, I knew I had a passion for working with children, and this was an opportunity to explore that from a legal perspective. By the end, I definitely found my "why" once again.
What stands out about your clinic experience?
I knew I wanted to work in the clinic because I wanted to give back to the community; however, I didn't realize that for many individuals, you are their only hope. Knowledge is power, and working in the clinic as an advocate was a constant reminder of my privilege as a law student. The human connections I made stand out the most about the Children's Rights Clinic. Being able to give parents the support they need during a challenging time, even if I didn't have a solution, made facing the challenge a little bit easier.
What skills and knowledge did you learn from your clinic experience?
I learned many skills in one semester, but the most important one was using my research and writing skills to transfer over to a new area of law. IEP meetings also helped me build my professional skills tremendously.
What do you think helped take you from student to advocate?
Professor Rodriguez-Fee provided guidance and support, but she gave us the opportunity to be the primary advocate, allowing us to grow into that position. Taking ownership of a case, making decisions regarding strategy and problem-solving, and having direct contact with clients all helped me become an advocate.
What words of advice would you have for future clinic students?
A clinic is a lot of work, but what you take away is an unforgettable experience. This is an opportunity to challenge yourself and discover the kind of attorney you want to be. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Please provide an inspiring anecdote from your clinical work experience.
My partner and I represented a student during an IEP meeting. My partner and I spent many hours combing through all of the assessments and finding areas where we believed our student required more services. Although the school had different opinions on the services required, we were able to voice our client's concerns and advocate for a more thorough assessment of our student. Regardless of how intimidating the meeting appeared, being thoroughly prepared gave us the confidence to advocate for our student and pinpoint the facts that justified our position. Thereafter, the school was willing to work with us and incorporated our ideas to create a plan that better reflected our student's needs.
Interested in learning more about the legal clinics? Visit our Clinics page here.