Many people in our communities continue to be financially impacted due to the pandemic, including those who have lost their jobs or unable to work. As a result, many are in danger of losing the place they call home.
Missy Barnes, a 4ED student at Widener Law Commonwealth, has been able to take her legal education and directly impact the lives of people in need.
This past summer, Barnes was able to secure placement in WLC’s Central Pennsylvania Law Clinics, assisting clients in danger of eviction. Prior to working in the clinic, she took part in an externship with MidPenn Legal Services, where she helped several clients complete the CARES Rent Relief program. She said that experience helped her hit the ground running to assist clients in need at the clinic, including a couple who left their home due to unsafe conditions.
“I believe that people deserve to live with dignity, and if you rent a home from someone, there are basic requirements that should be met. It is not OK for the roof to leak, the HVAC system to have mold growing in it to the point it cannot be used. A dry roof over your head and heat are both fundamental housing rights,” Barnes said.
The couple reached out to the clinic through a referral from MidPenn Legal Services when their landlord refused to return their security deposit. Through her work with the couple at the clinic, Barnes was not only successful arguing their case before local court officials, she also appealed it, due to additional costs the family incurred to cover other expenses and because the landlord violated state consumer protection laws.
Barnes, who is currently self-employed in the wedding industry with her husband, could understand the fear and anxiety felt by her clients.
“Our profession was completely shuttered by COVID, and being an empath by nature, it was very easy to relate to the couple I helped when they were on the verge of suffering a financial loss.”
Barnes credits the preparation she received in her classes at WLC for her success in helping others in the community.
“They helped me learn the structure and process of law. I had to utilize the Pennsylvania Landlord/Tenant code and felt very comfortable with understanding that code along with the notes. After six semesters of classes on campus, I was really looking forward to a hands-on learning experience in law.”
Her experience at the clinic was indeed rewarding, and she found it a great way to ‘get her feet wet’ in all genres of the law, including divorce, estates, and bankruptcy. It also helped her solidify the type of legal work she wants to pursue after graduation.
“After teaching in an urban environment for over ten years, my experience at the clinic brought me back to my roots, giving me a different way to help clients who cannot afford to pay for an attorney, yet who are in dire need of legal assistance,” Barnes concluded.
Interview was conducted in Fall 2021.
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