Helping parents


Award-winning MLaw alumna to work for 'Bronx Defenders'

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Miriam Schachter found her interest in the law sparked in the Teach for America Corps, when she taught the English language to K-6 immigrant and refugee students in a low-income community in Kansas City, Mo.

"I learned so much from my students and their families, who came from all over the world and faced incredible challenges with grace and love," she says.

Schachter saw systemic and institutional barriers to success that her students and families faced everyday, but often didn't know how to help them overcome those barriers.

"I decided to study law so I would be able to advocate for children and families like those I worked with as a teacher," she says.

After earning her undergrad degree from Columbia University in New York, and a Master of Education in elementary education from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, she headed to Michigan Law, where at her recent graduation she was one of three students honored with the Jane L. Mixer Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to advancing the cause of social justice.

Schachter enjoyed the camaraderie among MLaw students preparing for public interest legal careers.

"We're a minority among the student body, but I've never felt more supported by my peers than here at Michigan Law," she says. "The same goes for those professors who have made it their mission to support public interest students and their career goals."

Her first summer at MLaw, Schachter interned at the Juvenile Rights Practice of the Legal Aid Society in New York, where she worked with attorneys who represent children in child welfare and juvenile delinquency proceedings. Switching sides her second summer, she defended parents in child welfare proceedings at Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.

"Both internships were wonderful experiences because of the focus on client interaction and trial advocacy," she says.

She also worked as a student attorney in the MLaw Pediatric Advocacy Clinic, which is a medical-legal partnership.

"My casework allowed me to explore new and different areas of the law, especially how lawyers can promote the health and wellness of children and families," she says.

Throughout law school, Schachter volunteered as a reading coach at the nonprofit Family Learning Institute in Ann Arbor that provides free reading and math tutoring to students in need of academic support.

"I've really enjoyed getting to use the skills I learned as a teacher to support students in my community," she says.

This fall, she will join the Family Defense Practice at the Bronx Defenders, defending parents in abuse/neglect and termination of parental rights proceedings.

"I'm excited to be joining their team because of the incredible work they are doing to protect the civil rights of parents and families involved in the child welfare system, who are disproportionately low-income people of color," she says.

The new job will take the New Jersey native, who in her leisure time enjoys reading fiction, exploring the outdoors, and knitting, back near her family.

"My mom is a special educator who has worked with babies and children with disabilities and their families for more than 30 years, while my dad is a journalist who has spent his career committed to providing the public with high quality news and exposing injustice," she says. "My parents demonstrate every day how to serve the public with passion and conviction."

Published: Mon, Aug 01, 2016