By Rose Dipeitrantonio, ’14
One of my first assignments in the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) this past summer was to work with a client who was trafficked into the United States. Her story was heart breaking. She was forced into slave labor in Los Angeles and later became a victim of domestic violence. Her story is heartbreaking: She was forced into slave labor in Los Angeles and later became a victim of domestic violence. Luckily she escaped, and she was brave enough to report her abuser to local police. This was instrumental in his prosecution.
I met this courageous woman when I began my summer work at the clinic. She was the first client referred to us from the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), and my job was to help her with a Petition for UNonimmigrantStatus, the first step to her living freely in Los Angeles.
I remember clearly my initial interview with my client. Although Prof. Hannah Garry, director of the IHRC, helped me prepare, I was still nervous. It was difficult to ask her questions that dealt with sensitive and emotional topics, especially since we had not yet formed a close relationship. But by the end of my interview, my client turned to me and said, “You are my angel sent here to help me.” This not only gave me the confidence in subsequent interviews with her, but it made me realize that she was really depending on me and the clinic to help her gain legal status in the United States.
In the past several months, my client and I have formed a bond- something I have never before experienced. I have learned that trust is crucial in a client- attorney relationship. It was my client’s trust in me that kept me working so diligently on her case even when obstacles arose. And in turn, I believe it was my trust in the client that kept her motivated to do everything we requested of her.
Working with this client, under the guidance of Prof. Garry, has strengthened me in many ways. It has given me insight into what it really means to be a great attorney.