Denver Bar Association
November 2013
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Legal Life Lessons from a Rovira Scholar

by Ciara Faber

Ciara Faber

 

I


  spent much of my time as the Rovira Scholar for Metro Volunteer Lawyers trying to understand what the role meant to me.

I knew it was my responsibility to help promote and provide access to justice for the underserved population, and a large part of that was encouraging and providing support for pro bono attorneys, while also gaining insight into the operations of an organization with an impressive impact. That is a mouthful of a sentence to describe the big picture of the role I was given. However, it was in the small tasks that I learned the true value of my role—the ability to cultivate dignity.

The Rovira Scholar Fellowship

The Rovira Scholar Fellowship was made possible by a generous gift from Lois Ann Rovira, wife of former Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Luis Rovira. The goal of the fellowship is to enhance the overall understanding of the complex and unique legal challenges presented in pro bono public service through the early training and professional development of outstanding law school graduates. The fellow is supported by a monthly stipend. To support the Rovira Scholar fund, send a check payable to the Denver Bar Foundation to: 1900 Grant St., Suite 900, Denver, CO 80203.

Questions? Contact Dianne A. Van Voorhees at diannev@cobar.org

 

My value was a direct extension of the value of being a member of an organization staffed by a few people working to provide attorneys and other support for thousands of clients a year. If we were not direct advocates for clients, we were advocates for their dignity, ensuring that our volunteer attorneys were given the support and resources they needed to help their clients.

As an intermediary between clients and attorneys, I advocated by answering questions from all sides, engaging in phone and in-person conversations with clients to properly acknowledge their crises, and by pairing mentor attorneys with less experienced attorneys. My work often involved making direct pleas to attorneys to take difficult cases with very short deadlines. I learned a lot about dignity from attorneys willing to sacrifice their time to commit to these clients. I also represented my first Spanish-only client and volunteered at the monthly legal aid clinic at the Denver Indian Family Resource Center.

My experience at MVL was beneficial academically, as well as practically. I was trained in drafting Tribal Wills, Family Law Basics, Native American human rights violations, and applying the Indian Child Welfare Act, to name a few. I even tried to reciprocate with trainings in which I contributed presentations, such as for the Tribal Wills project at Denver Law, the Post Decree training at the Denver District Attorney’s office, giving a pro bono recruitment presentation for Denver Law students; and updating ICWA and MVL resources. I also attended meetings for various groups, including Access to Justice committees, the Justice Program for Older Adults, DBA and MVL board meetings, the Pro Bono Summit Conference, and a meeting to discuss and develop a support network to provide ways to better engage new attorneys in pro bono and mentoring programs.

Everything I learned and applied throughout this experience helped cultivate my own dignity as a public interest lawyer. It made me a more effective advocate for the dignity of MVL’s indigent clients, who deserved equal respect and access to legal help. My work came full circle when I observed the successful trial of an MVL client who had been treated with indignity by being forcibly and fraudulently removed from his home while mourning the loss of his father (See page 8). The attorney I matched him with on short notice went above and beyond to fight for him and restore his dignity. The pursuit of equalizing access to justice is the pursuit of upholding the dignity of every individual in need of it. D


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