As an extern for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) Vetlaw program, rising 2L Anna Conrad is, for the first time, getting the chance to interact with real clients on real legal issues this summer. She was placed with MACV as part of St. Thomas Law’s Fredrikson & Byron Public Interest Externship Program, which offers law students the opportunity to explore different career areas and provides them with relevant professional experience.
“Transitioning from learning and studying legal materials in my 1L courses to actually engaging with clients on complex legal issues in my work has been a difficult process of growth, but I have found it invaluable,” Conrad said.
Her externship has given her the opportunity to see, firsthand, the impact that attorneys can have when they take a client-centered approach to lawyering. She says it is shaping the type of lawyer she wants to become.
“The most meaningful and challenging experiences that I have had throughout this externship have been difficult conversations with Vetlaw clients,” Conrad said. “Early in my externship I talked a client through the process of a difficult divorce. I took extra steps to ensure they felt confident, safe and emotionally supported by our team throughout the process. As lawyers our role is to facilitate legal support and guidance, but we cannot forget or dismiss the actual people whose lives are impacted by our positions.”
Conrad has worked with MACV, which also helps veterans secure housing and employment, since June as part of their Vetlaw division. Vetlaw provides former military members with legal information, referrals, counsel and, in some cases, legal representation. As an extern, she is responsible for interviewing new clients and summarizing the relevant facts of each case for the Vetlaw staff attorneys.
The legal issues Conrad has encountered range from divorce proceedings to criminal expungements to fraud, but she says she has been working on a number of housing law cases this summer, where she has been able to apply what she learned in her 1L Property course taught by Professor Jerry Organ.
“I am currently working on a case where a veteran is seeking an eviction expungement in which the eviction was due to their roommate’s nonpayment of rent,” Conrad said. “Because of the knowledge I gained in my Property course, I feel comfortable discussing and presenting my analysis of the case to the Vetlaw attorneys.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Conrad has been working remotely during her externship, which she says has been challenging, but still educational.
“The Vetlaw team has been incredibly welcoming to me even though I have never met any of them in person,” she said. “This has been a massive blessing throughout the uncertainty of this time.”
Conrad completed her externship at the beginning of August, but she says she may be called back. During the pandemic, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has put in place a moratorium on evictions. If the governor’s executive order is lifted in the future, the Vetlaw program anticipates it will see a surge in evictions statewide and therefore an increase in the need for their legal services.
"I have enjoyed my externship at MACV and if the moratorium expires, I would be happy to help both our veterans and the attorneys at Vetlaw by continuing to assist with clients," Conrad said.
Learn more about the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans at https://www.mac-v.org/.