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January 30, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Obtaining Equal Access to Justice | OHIO Students Volunteer as Access to Justice Interns

OHIO students at Access to Justice training. Photo is a classroom setting.

OHIO students at Access to Justice training

Ten Ohio University students are the first to participate in Southeastern Ohio Legal Services’ Access to Justice Intern Program, a collaboration between Southeastern Ohio Legal Services and the Center for Law, Justice & Culture.

The program seeks to provide students with experience in the legal profession and rural access to justice struggles while providing valuable assistance to SEOLS attorneys and staff in serving low-income clients in the region.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with SEOLS in this important endeavor,” said Larry Hayman, Pre-Law Advisor and Specialist for the CLJC. “The access to justice gap—the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs—is wide, especially in Appalachia.  The Access to Justice Intern Program hopes to help close that gap while providing students with a meaningful opportunity to gain experience working with clients and witnesses in legal cases and to gain experience serving the community.”

SEOLS provides free legal aid to low-income individuals in civil cases. The organization serves 30 counties in Southeastern Ohio with a mission “to obtain equal access to justice for [their] clients through advocacy, education and empowerment.” The staff at SEOLS provides legal advice and representation in cases involving housing, employment, health, education, family, and other legal matters. They also place a focus on their work with other community organizations to improve the conditions for low-income individuals in the region.

Dianna Parker Howie, Managing Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator at the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, describes the need for student interns in the office, “the A2J Interns will play a critical role in delivering legal help to the poor in our rural communities. Interviewing clients and gathering important case information will enable our lawyers to make case acceptance decisions more quickly, provide a higher and more efficient level of service, and to ultimately serve more people.”

The participating students come from a wide variety of majors, interests, and student organizations including Phi Alpha Delta and the Students for Law, Justice & Culture.

Ashley Fishwick, a junior double majoring in English Pre-Law and Political Science is looking forward to “gaining a more comprehensive understanding of what being a lawyer is like as well as being part of a program which creates equal opportunities to justice.”

Jessica Roth, a senior Sociology major, joined the program “to get experience in an organization that tackles these huge justice gaps in the region that we have studied in our courses, explored in campus events, and seen in the Athens community.”

Participating students attended a training at the beginning of the semester that introduced them to the organization and the kind of work SEOLS conducts in the area. Dianna Parker-Howie and Anne Rubin, Managing Attorney at SEOLS, detailed the kinds of cases students will encounter at the office, how to interview clients, and the must-know information on housing law.

Francisco Cintron, a senior majoring in History, says that during the training, he “learned about the laws surrounding tenant-landlord relations in Ohio and the problems that community members tend to face in such relations”.

Any students interested in joining the program should contact Hayman at hayman@ohio.edu or apply online.

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