Externship Profile: South Carolina Legal Services

Alison Reeder, 3L, realized her passion for human rights and social care issues while doing criminal legal aid work in London last fall. Upon returning to Charleston she enrolled in human rights and social care issues courses. To gain more hands-on experience, Reeder began to work with Charleston Law’s Domestic Violence Pro Bono Project, which led to an externship with South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS).

SCLS is a state legal aid organization that provides legal representation for free to those below a certain income level. The program is funded by grants from a variety of sources including federal and private funding as well as the S.C. Bar Foundation, and deals with a variety of areas including landlord tenant disputes, probate issues, immigration, and state benefit appeals among others.

A typical day involves a variety of tasks, such as editing and drafting memos and orders, filing immigration paperwork, gathering medical information and researching various laws and appeals processes.

According to Reeder, the most interesting experiences involve immigration issues. “I’m currently assisting in filing immigration papers under the Violence Against Women Act. A provision of the Act allows abused spouses of U.S. citizens to gain permanent residency status without the sponsorship of their abusive spouse. Ordinarily, immigrant spouses can only become permanent residents if their U.S. citizen spouse sponsors their petition. This has the potential to keep immigrants trapped in abusive relationships for fear of being deported or otherwise being in violation of immigration rules. This is a great chance for me to really learn immigration law on several different levels, and learn how criminal and domestic law interacts with the immigration rules.”

The direct contact and interaction with the clients is her favorite aspect of this externship. “Legal work is really all about helping people solve problems, and I find being able to use my legal interests to help disadvantaged people through their legal issues incredibly rewarding and enjoyable,” said Reeder. This externship ties in perfectly with Charleston Law’s commitment to public service. In the future, I plan to continue to work with the economically disadvantaged, who are frequently immigrants,” said Reeder.

Charleston Law classes, including Elder Law with Judge Condon, as well as her involvement in Federal Courts Law Review provide skills that are applicable to her work with SCLS. This experience has completely solidified her plans to practice in the area of social care after school.

She highly recommends this externship for students who are interested in this type of law or practice area. “Not only is it an incredible site where one can gain experience in a wide range of practice areas, but also Kim Shelton, the externship supervisor, does everything she can to make sure externs work on cases that are of interest to them.”

Reeder is a native of North Charleston, S.C. and attended Furman University before enrolling in the Charleston School of Law. She will attend the Social Care Law LL.M. program at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom in September 2014.

Charleston School of Law’s externship program allows students to gain practical work experience while earning course credit. Students complement their classroom studies by working under the direct supervision of members of the judiciary or attorneys in the public sector. This summer, Charleston School of Law students are at 35 exciting externships sites helping the community. Since fall 2006, Charleston School of Law students have completed approximately 82, 114 externship hours. The externship course is offered during the fall, spring and summer terms. For more information please contact Professor James Klein or Autumn Jones.

Story by: Alexis Economy
Photos by: Graham Ervin