Thinking of a typical law student might conjure an image of a sleep-deprived, caffeine driven 20-something poring over books or pecking away at a laptop at a downtown campus law library. Wendy Andre is many things, but typical is not one of them.
She is a 37-year-old mother of three, a first-generation Portuguese immigrant and a steadfast advocate for immigrant rights. And in the midst of raising a family, performing countless hours of volunteer service and pursuing a career as a legal assistant, Andre has managed to tackle law school and is now in her final year at Roger Williams University School of Law. She is also one of five local students to be awarded a Massachusetts Bar Foundation Legal Internship Fellowship this past summer.
Each year, through a competitive application process, the MBF awards stipends of $6,000 each to law students who are exploring careers in public interest law by interning at local non-profits. Funded by contributions from MBF Fellows and the Smith Family Fund, the MBF Legal Intern Fellowship Program serves as a springboard to promote public interest law careers among the most promising local law students. Over the past decade, the Legal Intern Fellowship Program has awarded more than $267,000 to 73 law students. As originally hoped, many former Legal Intern Fellows have gone on to launch successful careers in the public service arena. For most, the internship supported by the MBF helped to direct their professional paths.
For Andre, a longtime New Bedford resident, spending her summer months working full time at Catholic Social Services’ Immigration, Law, Education and Advocacy Project in Fall River was the perfect placement to aid her progression from law student to lawyer.
“It is one thing to sit in a law class and analyze cases; it is another to see how the law actually works,” Andre explains. “The internship at ILEAP allowed me to gain a much deeper understanding of the content of my immigration law class. More importantly, it has provided me with the skills necessary to advocate for the immigrants in my own community after I graduate.”
Touched by those who helped her own family along the way, Andre intends to put her law degree and her life experiences to good use as a solo practitioner devoting a portion of her practice to immigration law in New Bedford, a community with one of the largest immigrant populations in Massachusetts, and notably besieged by recent immigration raids.
Her pursuit of this goal is strengthened by a promise made long ago. Andre notes, “I made a promise to myself as a teenager, that if I ever achieved any level of success in my life, I would never forget where I began… a daughter of poor Portuguese immigrants.”