(Reminder/disclaimer: This is all the personal brain dump of me, Mary. It doesn’t officially represent Her Justice, any other organization, or any other carbon-based life form in this or any other universe.)
I really wasn’t looking for a job for myself in the spring of 2009. There was nothing wrong with the financial services data quality position I had. I had great coworkers, good managers, interesting work, and a very fine compensation package. Yet…it didn’t grab my soul.
Then I stumbled across a job posting on Idealist.org for a “Legal Services Manager” with Excel, SQL, Spanish, and experience in a volunteer-based organization.
Well, now. That sounded a lot like me.
A cover letter/resume email, some interviews, and a few weeks later, I walked in the door of Her Justice as an employee. A couple of years later, I was asked to become the IT manager, and happily accepted.
There is never a day when I am not happy to go to work.
I am free of many of the common plagues of technology staff and managers. Of course, there is a lot of work, and some long hours and weekends. That is the nature of an IT job.
My coworker-users are smart, good-humored, and willing to learn. The senior managers encourage constant communication among all staff. My manager’s also incredibly supportive of my investigations into technology that might improve our legal staff’s ability to train and mentor volunteers, and counsel clients. I have support from a great outside technology consulting firm. I genuinely like the people I work with.
One of my less-technical responsibilities is to extract data for reports to our funders. The numbers tell just a part of our story. I look at ways to put our clients’ legal needs in context–the neighborhoods they live in, the linguistic, ethnic and economic isolation that can aggravate a woman’s situation, and so on.
That’s the point–it’s all about the clients.
Our clients are low-income women who live in New York City. Often they are survivors of domestic violence, but that is not a requirement to get help from us. Most have children. All are working very hard to get free of ugly situations. The amount of multi-tasking it must take to gather all the documents, notes, photos, and other evidence for a matter, perhaps hiding them from an abuser, while having to deal with social services agencies for food and financial assistance, and also clothing and feeding small children and getting them to a caregiver or on the subway to an office in downtown Manhattan…hurts my head.
I sometimes get to see the evaluations the clients send in. The comments are written in careful script, squeezed into a few lines. Over and over again, in Spanish and English, clients express thanks not just for the legal services they’ve received from volunteer attorneys, but for the dignified, respectful relationships the volunteers and Her Justice staff have fostered with them.
I wonder what effects the visits to our office, have on the daughters of clients. One of our staff attorneys told me a story about accompanying a client and her little girl to an immigration interview. “The girl carried my briefcase, wore my jacket….and at the end, she asked, ‘Can I be a lawyer someday and help people too?'” Who knows how many of the little girls who have sat in the Her Justice office may someday make it through law school?
The volunteer attorneys, too, send in evaluations. They praise the quality of the training and the manuals authored by our legal staff, and they value their courtroom experience highly. (If well-educated attorneys at the top firms in NYC sometimes find the system aggravating and chaotic, what shot at justice could an unrepresented, possibly under-educated, stressed, low-income woman possibly have by herself?) Her Justice staff attorneys, in turn, prize the mentoring relationships they develop with the law firm associates and partners.
Her Justice is always looking for ways to more effectively help clients. Forensic accounting firms and other non-legal corporations are volunteering and providing incredible new help to women, as well. What they are contributing is fascinating and wonderful.
This is all why I love my job.
I’m not stuck in a data center or server silo. I get to hear what my legal services coworkers do. I get to meet clients in the reception area or hall, and get to wave at cute children as they pass my office on the way to or from a play area. I get to continually evaluate and improve all our technology to best use the donor dollar and support and grow our mission.
Who wouldn’t be happy to get up and go to work?
Please support Her Justice. If you are in NYC, consider forming a team to take part in our annual Story by Story stair climb on October 23, 2014.