Student post: A Date with the Daynard Fellow

By Lee ’17

This morning, I had the wonderful opportunity with the Executive Director of Prisoner Legal Services for a half-hour one-on-one conversation. Leslie Walker is a wonderful attorney and a fearsome advocate. She leads an organization with such a compelling public interest mission. And, me? I’m in my second year of law school.

How did I get so lucky? Well, first, I went to NUSL. More specifically, NUSL has a Daynard Fellows Program which brings in public interest leaders to give talks and mentorship. I attended her lecture, entitled Behind Barbed Wire: Who is in Prison and What Happens When the World is Not Watching?. I love listening to these presentations because it introduces me to people who are doing the work in ways I want to mirror.

By bringing in these fabulous role models, NUSL creates space for me and my comrades to imagine our futures. In my conversation with Leslie, I was able to talk about my interest in advocating for trans prisoners. We talked about the atrocities that trans women face in prisons, including solitary confinement and being denied access to gender affirming medical care.

We also spoke about living as a public interest lawyer more generally. I talked about my anxieties as a trans person who wants to represent and advocate for other trans people. Again, I was reminded that good advocates do have personal stakes in their work. But, we need to take care of ourselves. Leslie spoke about the importance of continuing trainings, including about secondary trauma.

I am so fortunate to have mentorship opportunities like these. The professors at NUSL, many of whom have walked the public interest walk, share my passions, which shapes a learning environment that focuses on more than just torts (even though torts can be really exciting!). Learning at NUSL includes learning about the ways others have made an impact, and building my own skills to be like them.

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