By Alia Sisson
During my time interning at the U.S. Senate in college, I had the distinguished title of “Intern 6.” While it was important work I was honored to do, I couldn’t help feeling a bit like a tiny cog in the enormous machine of American politics – easily replaced and forgotten.
My time as a volunteer at Legal Aid of Western Missouri (LAWMO) has been quite the opposite. At the time of this writing, I am over seven months into my nine months of service through the Missionaries of the Precious Blood as a Precious Blood Volunteer. From the time I began my service at Legal Aid, the most notable aspect of the work environment is the collegiality, friendliness, and inclusivity of all staff, from interns to the Executive Director.
On my first day, I was pleasantly surprised to find I would be given my own office, phone number, and email address. Not only did this make me feel valued for donating my time, but it’s indicative of the greater mission of LAWMO, which to me centers on the inherent dignity of every person. From the clients that we serve to the staff and volunteers, Legal Aid’s work is a labor of love. LAWMO attracts people with big hearts and high ambitions to help the neediest among us.
As far as the work that I do for Legal Aid, it could not be more perfect for what I was seeking from a volunteer year following my law school graduation. While there are plenty of opportunities for soul-crushing corporate, transactional work after I take the bar exam, I wanted to dedicate a year of my life to something beyond billable hours in the 9-to-5 grind. I would be hard-pressed to find something more fulfilling than helping domestic violence survivors pick up the pieces of their lives and start fresh by getting divorced from abusers and gaining custody of their kids.
Through this experience, I have been privileged to get an inside look at the justice system. For example, attending court with our clients as Legal Aid attorneys work with them to obtain full orders of protection. I have observed how the justice system intersects with children’s division, domestic violence shelters, the police, and other agencies. I have also learned a great deal of practical knowledge for when I practice law, such as drafting pleadings, interrogatories, letters, briefs, and research memoranda.
Though not every case always goes in our client’s favor, I know for a fact that the Legal Aid attorneys and paralegals are amongst the hardest working out there and always do their very best in advocating for those who do not possess the luxury of other options. I have had several clients give the most heartfelt thanks to me for the help that Legal Aid provided them. With one client even offering to clean our offices in gratitude (I politely declined), it is safe to say LAWMO makes a tremendous positive difference in the Missouri community.
I am so thankful to be the first Precious Blood Volunteer placed at Legal Aid of Western Missouri, and I hope I am not the last. Both organizations harmonize in bridging the gap between resources and need by offering a helping hand to those in poverty. It is my sincere hope that LAWMO and Precious Blood will share a bright future in collaborating to bless volunteers with the ability to serve and grow.
To learn more about serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Legal Aid of Western Missouri go to http://preciousbloodkc.org/legal-aid-of-western-missouri/