Reflections On Visiting Our Detained Client For The First Time, Seth Goldman, ’23:
This was my first time at a detention facility, and the experience was both difficult and important to my growth as a lawyer. We met with our client, P, to discuss his case, but we spent much of the time talking about his experiences working on behalf of other detained people as a jailhouse lawyer. He told us that it meant so much to him that we read and were impressed by his briefs. This part of our conversation filled me with joy. It felt wonderful to congratulate him, encourage him, and laugh with him. Even though we were only there for a short time, I got the sense that our visit was very important to him, which felt very affirming. It reminded me how crucial it is to simply be present with our clients and to listen to them on their own terms. Indeed, I was very grateful to share those moments of joy with P, even if they seem fleeting in the grand scheme of his case. This is an element of lawyering that I will remember as I progress through my career.
Overall, I think the visit gave me a glimpse into how the criminal and immigration systems function in practice. One reason I was enthusiastic about IRC was to move beyond legal reading and writing to gain direct services experience. I knew that this type of work requires one to deal with difficult and painful experiences, and I am glad that my clinic partner, Caroline, and I were able to remain focused on our client work in a difficult environment. I also think this experience has better prepared me for the next time I visit P, or other detained clients in the future.
Reflections On Collaborating with My Clinic Partner, Caroline Hunsicker, ’24:
I was so grateful to visit our client P, with my clinic partner, Seth. Neither of us had been to a jail or other detention facility before, so it was really nice to prepare together, experience it together, and get to debrief together. A huge benefit (as it turns out) was the hour-long drive in each direction to the detention center. Seth and I had to wake up early and hit the road, but it gave us a nice buffer of time on either side of the visit to decompress.
Before the visit, Seth and I talked about what we were nervous about and what it might be like to see our detained client in person. We didn’t expect anything to go badly, but we wanted to make sure we were prepared. It was awesome to work together leading up to our visit so that were ready and able to focus on our concrete goals, despite our nerves.
Seth and I also reflected on the car ride back about what surprised us and what we noticed in the center. I find it’s pretty hard to re-tell experiences like this over and over, so I was grateful to be with someone who also experienced it so we could debrief together. I think Seth’s EQ, calming presence, and willingness to emotionally debrief after a new or difficult situation is something I really value and will try to find in future collaborators.