During her summer working in the office of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Simone Gerald-Burns found it enlightening to learn that people from all walks of life can find themselves in the unfortunate situation of filing for bankruptcy.
“The most interesting thing to me is to see the judges talk to people,” Gerald-Burns said. “There are a lot of successful people who end up in a bad situation, and there are also a lot of people with nothing left to lose.”
Over the course of seven weeks working in the court, Gerald-Burns said she received hands-on lessons in empathy and fiscal responsibility. From her coworkers, she learned the value of a collaborative spirit.
“I like being able to see how people interact in an office setting, which is very quiet compared to school,” she said. “You have your own responsibility, but you can also call on others when you need to.”
Going to lunch with her colleagues from time to time, Gerald-Burns valued the chance to hear them talk about the journey through school that led them to their career path. She said she feels better equipped to make decisions about her own future after hearing about the learning experiences of those in her office.
“Learning to talk to more people who are not just people my age also helped me be more comfortable talking to people in authority,” she added.
Above all, Gerald-Burns came away from her job with a meaningful understanding of concepts she had previously only seen on television.
“Before this job, I didn’t know anything about bankruptcy besides the spot on the wheel in Wheel of Fortune. I think this experience will help me keep good credit and pay my bills on time, and the work experience will certainly help me in my career,” she said.
Gerald-Burns’s position at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court was funded by the Boston Bar Foundation, along with 10 other positions for teens in Boston this summer.
Mark C. Fleming (Partner, WilmerHale), Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal (Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice), Jack M. Beermann (Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law) and moderator Kent Greenfield (Professor of Law, Boston College Law School) discuss constitutional law and the federal government.
On Monday, nearly 100 people packed the Boston Bar Association for the culminating symposium of the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP): Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. For the past year PILP has been meeting twice a month to learn about various issue areas ranging from housing discrimination to the opioid crisis and learning ways they can become involved as attorneys and leaders in their community. During the year, the class also had the opportunity to meet with judges to discuss the courts and the judicial perspective, including Chief Justice Roberto Ronquillo, Jr. and Judge Eleanor Sinnott (Boston Municipal Court).
As their final project, the class decided to hold a symposium to further the dialogue around the constitutional issues in the national spotlight. Inviting local speakers from the area familiar with constitutional law, PILP divided the event into two panels: one focusing on the recent changes in federal law and policy and the other on how states can and cannot react to changes in federal policy. Each presenter spoke about their issue area of focus, but attendees were encouraged to ask their questions to the expert panel.
PILP member Hannah Joseph (Beck Reed Riden LLP) shared a bit about her experience:
“The most rewarding aspect of being involved in PILP was hosting our end-of-the-year symposium, Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. The speakers – representing academia, the Commonwealth, civil rights groups, and the private sector – are experts in the area of constitutional law and shared diverse perspectives regarding key issues in today’s political climate. Similarly, the audience, comprising attorneys representing a wide variety of practice areas, was engaged and actively contributed to the discussion. It had the electricity and excitement of a town hall meeting,” she said.
PILP’s 13th class year has now ended and the 14th class is underway. If you’re an attorney who’s been practicing for less than 10 years or you’d like to recommend the program to a colleague, you can find more program information here.
Rep. Michael S. Day (State Representative, Massachusetts House of Representatives), Bessie Dewar (State Solicitor, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office), Jessie Rossman (Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts), and moderator Lawrence Friedman (Professor of Law, New England School of Law) speak about the role of state governments in shaping the law of the land.