UNO Documentary: Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice

What: The Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic & Center for Social Justice and The Gillis Long Poverty Law Center

Film By: UNO Student and documentarian Yamat O’Connell

Editor’s Note: NolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöp, pairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary. Director Yamat O’Connell and speaker Abby Trahant discuss the incredible work that the Clinic and Poverty Law Center does on a day-to-day basis. Throughout the short film, Abby explains how she works to embody the values of the Clinic, and what her work days may look like. The Clinic has made strives to assist those in need, and we hope you feel the same appreciation as we did as we learned about the work that they accomplish.

|Read the full transcript of the interview below|

My name is Abby Trahant, and I am from here (Louisiana), and I work as the administrative assistant for the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic & Center for Social Justice and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center. 

My day-to-day can be different, but the core things of what I do is that I come in and catch up on whatever emails I need to accomplish, make sure the office runs smoothly, make sure that we are stocked with the supplies that we need, that there are no problems in the physical building. 

I translate for our Spanish-speaking clients that come in, I don’t handle client communication, but I make sure that they can speak with the necessary people that they need. Then, for people who walk through the door or call us, I connect them with the appropriate lawyer or the appropriate referrals because currently most of our sections are at capacity. So, we can’t take any new cases, but whoever walks through the door or calls, I can recommend them because we have a network of other pro-bono providers that we know or people who can offer low-cost services. Especially for family law and immigration, the demand is very high. Even if we’re not directly representing someone, I can — through being at the front desk or answering the phones — make sure that someone is connected to the person that they need. 

What we do at the Clinic and the Poverty Law Center: 

They’re separate organizations in the same office, but they go hand in hand. The Gillis Long Poverty Law Center has student alumni programs — graduates can do work with pro-bono organizations that are funded by us. And, the clinic students can do internships with the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center, which also is hand-in-hand with the clinic work that provides legal services to people who are indigent. Then, in the clinic, students from the law school come and practice under Rule 20; they are sworn in and have supervising attorneys and staff attorneys. They go to court and do all of the wonderful legal things that you have to do in office under their supervising attorneys for the community. The whole point of both the Clinic and the Poverty Law Center is justice and service to the community in New Orleans. 

Most of the clients I see coming through the door day-to-day would be for immigration, family, and workplace justice. Almost all of those clients are Spanish-speaking. The people who walk in are requesting services and are our clients. Those are the top three populations that we get requests for. 

The main mission of the Law Clinic and the Poverty Law Center are justice and service to the community. I get to see that mission come to fruition when people get their Green Cards, and when adoptions happen especially from Honduras. We have a lot of clients from Honduras, and they come here for safety and for compassion. Not only can we provide that, but we can provide you with the next steps — your work permit, your Green Card, etc. Same with any of the sections! Our Youth Justice Clinic right now is defending juveniles in detention centers who got moved to adult prisons during Hurricane Ida and they are trying to move them to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Our lawyers are just fantastic and keep those kids safe. Even if they are not winning the cases in court or whatever motions they are setting, by engaging with the courts they are keeping these people away from further harm and protecting/ serving them, which is exactly what we do in this office. It is amazing to see. 



You must login to post a comment. Need a ViaNolaVie account? Click here to signup.