Advocate: Law student served as chair of Legal Aid Clinic

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Prior to working for the Friend of the Court in Ann Arbor, Hilary Braley’s only legal exposure had been through jury duty and John Grisham books.

But in 2012 when Braley and her husband moved from Pennsylvania to Ann Arbor for his job as a computer programmer, she dipped her toe into legal waters.

“I took a year off of work to write a book—which remains unpublished,” says Braley, who earned her undergrad degree in professional writing from York College of Pennsylvania. “I used to work for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a caseworker in a welfare office, so when it was time for me to find a job I looked for something similar and stumbled across the Friend of the Court.”

Braley spent two years as a modification coordinator for the FoC, with duties that included processing computer-based petitions, requests, and referrals for child support modifications; updating case information; scheduling hearings; and answering client questions.

“I enjoy explaining complicated procedures in understandable ways, and I thought it would be interesting to work in a courthouse,” she says. “I liked assisting clients, and I had great coworkers. A couple of them, an attorney named Cynthia Bostwick in particular, convinced me to give law school a shot. The attorneys at the FoC made the profession seem much more approachable.”

Braley applied to Wayne State University Law School, where she particularly values the sense of community.

“I'd like to give a shout-out to the staff—particularly Ava, Lucy, Pam, and Tracey—for all of their hard work and for helping me stay sane, and also to the professors who didn't mind my bringing a nursing newborn to class for several months during fall semester of my 3L year,” she says.

In her 1L summer, she interned in the Washtenaw County Office of the Public Defender in Ann Arbor, working on the Neglect and Abuse docket under a supervising attorney who generally appears as a court-appointed legal guardian ad litem on behalf of minors.

“They have a fantastic program for interns,” Braley says. “I got a ton of courtroom and client experience.”

For the past two years, she worked at the law school’s Free Legal Aid Clinic where, under the supervision of attorneys from Lakeshore Legal Aid and the Elder Law and Advocacy Center, she had a caseload of family law and elder law cases. She served as FLAC chair for the past year, managing this small nonprofit and supervising a staff of 19 students.

“I’m proud to have had a role in teaching other students to interview and otherwise work with and for individual clients,” she says.

Braley, who volunteered for five months in 2016 as a live help agent at Michigan Legal Help, would like to continue working in public interest areas of the law. A holder of mediation certification through the Practicum in Dispute Resolution at Wayne, she also intends to get back into volunteering with the Dispute Resolution Center in Washtenaw County after she passes the bar.

A member of Damon J. Keith Students, National Lawyers Guild, American Bar Association, and If/When/How (formerly Law Students for Reproductive Justice), Braley particularly enjoys the community of the Women’s Law Caucus and the Mock Trial program.

“The WLC is a wonderful group of supportive women, and the Mock Trial program provides fantastic trial experience,” she says.

Playing in the campus band provides some much-needed relaxation away from legal studies.

“It was fun picking up the saxophone again after a 13-year hiatus,” she says.

A native of Cochranville, Pa., Braley and her husband David now make their home in Ypsilanti, with sons Hatton, 4, and Stephen, 11 months, as well as two cats, and a three-legged Pomeranian, all rescues.

In her spare time, Braley enjoys reading, video games, movies, and crafts; and has served as a municipal liaison for the Ann Arbor National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) region since 2013.
 

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