A Summer Fellowship at the Western New York Law Center

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By Austin Mowers ’22

When I first arrived at the University at Buffalo School of Law, I truly had no idea what type of law I wanted to practice or what type of place I wanted to work.  As I took the mandatory 1L courses (civil procedure, torts, contracts, legal writing and analysis, constitutional law, criminal law, and property law) and the classes I was able to pick during 2L and I began to zero in on possibly going into family law, but I must still admit that I am unsure.  

Although I was unsure when arriving at UB of my future, many of my classmates already had a picture in their mind of how their three years of law school (and their careers) would go.  While I am happy for my classmates that they have a good idea about what they want to do, one hidden benefit of my indecisiveness has been that I have been open to trying new things to see what I like.

The best thing that I decided to try has been my internship this summer with the Western New York Law Center (WNYLC).  At the law center I have been blessed to work with great supervisors (Paulette Campbell and Stephen Halpern) and have worked on a wide range of work.  I have split my time between working with the Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office (CLARO) law clinic.  With CLARO, I have been helping people who are being sued over consumer debt.  I review CLARO visitor’s court documents, draft answers, discoveries, and other motions, and meet with them over zoom to help them figure out their problems.  My other role with the law center is working with Stephen Halpern on public policy by researching public banking.  A public bank is a bank owned by the government that takes deposits from the government and sometimes individuals and offers loans as an institution or participates in loans with local banks.  

My experience so far with WNYLC shows the benefits of trying new things.  In undergrad, I was a history major and my only exposure to towards regulations or business in law school was taking the class business associations. But that didn’t matter… I took on the challenge of working on a subject that I had absolutely no background knowledge in and now I am better for it!  It doesn’t matter that I probably will never work with banking again, learning about public banking has taught me knowledge and skills that I can use in whatever I work in. I also did not know much about consumer debt before working at CLARO.  However, I’ve learned a lot by working with CLARO. I learned about motion practice and valid defenses to a consumer lawsuit (pay attention in civil procedure because most of the arguments were procedural).  

Most importantly, I met people that I would have never meet otherwise.  CLARO is a law clinic so most of the CLARO visitors I worked with are in a different tax bracket than what many law students who do not work in public interest encounter.  I’ve learned many new perspectives about the legal system and society from these visitors and have thoroughly enjoyed helping them.

This opportunity would not have been possible had it not been for a fellowship founded by the donors of the Buffalo Summer Funding and Fellowships Program, and I am very thankful for their donations that made this summer possible for me.  Working in public interest law is a great way to gain experience and work with actual clients.  Unfortunately, internships in public interest typically do not pay well forcing many students to choose between being paid and gaining the experience of working in public interest. Because of the generosity of donors, myself and countless other students are able to reap the benefits of trying new things. Thank you!

Name: Austin Mowers, ’22

Name of Fellowship: Western New York Law Center Summer Fellowship

Placement: Western New York Law Center 

Location: Buffalo, NY

One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “This entire experience would not have been possible if I had not been open to trying new things.  If I had closed my mind off to trying an experience in a particular practice area, I would never have been able to meet all of the wonderful people that I have met and worked with and help the people I helped.  If this summer has taught me one thing it is to not be afraid to learn new thing and that even if you don’t end up making a career out of your experience you will learn useful skills for whatever you may do.”