Mara Kipnis ’22

Federal Civil Rights Legal Clinic for the Federal Bar Association of the Western District

As a fellow with the Federal Bar Association of the Western District of Washington (FBA-WDWA), I was able to explore many different career paths in the legal field and gain a deeper understanding of the systems and resources available to those seeking justice. While working at the FBA-WDWA, I reported directly to the executive director of the Federal Civil Rights Legal Clinic, learning about her day-to-day role and what it is like to manage a pro bono clinic during the coronavirus pandemic. I also got to work on projects of my own, contributing written work to the FBA publication and working to update the clinic’s website.

The FBA-WDWA is a volunteer organization that provides a link between federal judges and lawyers who serve the district. It seeks to improve the federal judicial process for the courts, lawyers, and litigants in Western Washington, and to support the administration of justice. The FBA-WDWA serves over 700 members and includes over 15 committees that oversee various projects including pro bono work, legal education services, and federal appointments.

This summer I had the opportunity to see how a pro bono clinic runs, as well as the difficulties the pandemic has placed on its operations. Because many of the clinic’s clients do not have reliable or accessible internet access, the process of converting the clinic into a remote operation was a challenge. As a result, one of the main projects 
I worked on was updating the website to make it as easy as possible for both clients and FBA members to understand how to get involved and utilize the clinic’s services. We linked the new client intake forms, added job descriptions for volunteers to access, and made sure the clinic’s page could be found easily from the FBA-WDWA website. It felt extremely rewarding to do something that can be useful for the clinic and its clients moving forward.

Another large project I worked on was profiling the retiring Chief Probation and Pretrial Services Officer in the district for the FBA-WDWA publication. Through this process I was able to gain a greater understanding about the criminal justice system and speak with multiple federal judges. I participated in the entire interviewing, writing and publishing process, which was a valuable experience. Furthermore, I built relationships with important members of the Western Washington legal community which will serve me well as I move forward in my career.

My summer with the Federal Civil Rights Legal Clinic was an amazing experience in which I learned a lot about the legal field and further solidified my interest in both law school and a future career as an attorney. I know that I want to pursue a career that will provide me opportunities to serve others, and the clinic has helped me imagine the many ways this would be possible. I am so appreciative of both the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and the Estate of George Mead for making this internship opportunity possible for me. I have learned so much, and I am incredibly grateful that the Williams community is so supportive.