Ahad Khan ’19 Louisville Legal Aid Society – As a political science major on the pre-law track, this summer I was fortunate to avail an internship that many consider as the perfect opportunity for students considering a legal profession. I worked at the Legal Aid Society of Louisville as the Jeffrey Been Intern. The internship is named after Mr. Jeffrey Been, former executive director of the Legal Aid Society and a member of Wabash College class of ’81. Now in its eleventh year, the internship has hosted a Wabash student every year since 2007. Since the internship program’s inception, Mr. Been has generously hosted students at his Louisville home, which nestles in the bustling Highlands neighborhood of the city. I was no exception to Mr. Been’s, his partner Eric’s, or their two dogs Gideon’s and Jodi’s generosity, and stayed with them for the entire seven-week duration of my internship. Staying with two attorneys while working at the Legal Aid Society for nearly two months reinforced my passion to study the law.
At the Legal Aid Society, I worked closely with the Development and Communications team and assisted several attorneys with their legal work. Legal Aid provides all services at zero cost to its clients; proactive fundraising, thus, forms an integral part of its sustainability. The organization receives annual federal funding to continue its operations and covers the remainder of its expenses from the donations it receives from multiple small to big law firms throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In my capacity, I worked with the Development and Communications director to raise money for the organization. I assisted in writing grant proposals and attended meetings with the law firms to request funding for the numerous needs of the Legal Aid Society. I also identified and sorted active donors from inactive ones, which helped to streamline the fundraising efforts of Legal Aid. That also helped the organization to work efficiently with some of its strongest allies and donors, some of whom donated more than what we requested them. Such donations not only helped Legal Aid stay far ahead of its quarterly fundraising goal but also allowed the director to secure funding for a second annual fundraising event. Working on fundraising projects also enabled me to meet attorneys from the private sector and get a glimpse into their daily work and how it differs from those working in the public sector.
The internship’s most profound impact on me came about when I began working with attorneys in the various departments of Legal Aid. I assisted in several expungement filings for our clients who struggled to find jobs and rent homes even years after remaining clean from their criminal activity, only because they could not afford proper legal counsel. I tracked records of the clients’ history and then determined, per the state’s laws, those who qualified and those who did not for an expungement. I also helped to set up weekly law clinics for our clients to enable them to understand the legal procedures and work independently on filing their cases. These included pro-se (meaning on one’s own behalf) divorce clinics, small claims clinics, domestic violence clinics, and bankruptcy clinics. At the end of each of those clinics, the immense gratitude and appreciation from the clients made me recognize the positive impact of the efforts of our team in the lives of those citizens. Through these experiences, I interacted with the indigent and weak of our society, which led me to realize that one’s financial ability must not be a hindrance in one’s pursuit to seek justice. There remains a staggering disparity between the rich and the poor’s struggle to obtain justice and only through more selfless lawyers and individuals can we overcome this inequality. Legal Aid strives each day to provide services to the disenfranchised; as a lawyer, I hope to do the same for my community one day.
As I conclude my internship, the following verse from the Noble Qur’an resonates more strongly than ever in my mind:
“Verily, Allah (God) enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed.” (Qur’an 16:91).