Student Advice

What Joining the Expungement Project Did for Me

Among other things, my first semester in law school was immediately overwhelmed by emails. Coming into Temple Law as an overly eager, wide-eyed 1L, I struggled with wanting to join every student organization I read about. Knowing that’s not possible, I shamelessly let the provided lunches dictate which meeting to attend each day.

By this method, I fell into the Expungement Project by accident. During the general body meeting for the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) committee chairs spoke about their subcommittees and projects. Expungement Project instantly stood out to me. Having worked in several clinics and volunteered at a maximum-security facility prior to coming to law school, Expungement Project sounded like an activity that would keep me grounded and sane throughout my first semester.

My first expungement clinic took place in North Philly at the Village of Arts and Humanities. The colorful buildings were unlike those on Temple’s campus—so vibrant and quirky—but before I had time to take it all in, Community Legal Services quickly put each of us to work. The prerequisite training taught and exposed us to the substantive portion of the Expungement Project – the step by step process to expunging a non-conviction criminal record. Yet I hadn’t realized until I arrived at the clinic and was about to sit with my first client that I was extremely nervous about the deeply personal and intimate aspect of the Project.

The Expungement Project is the only student organization for which you can interview clients, draft petitions, and attend their hearings, all with the limited skillset and education you have as a 1L. A lengthy criminal record, whether the person was convicted or not, impedes on so many people’s abilities to get housing, jobs, loans, custody of their kids, and more. Because this can seriously impact a person’s life, joining Expungement Project became much more to me than simply taking part in an activity or participating in a club. It has given my hard work and effort a meaning here at Temple Law.

I think as law students, and especially as 1Ls, we forget that we are reading cases about real people. We become numb to the impact of the court decisions we forge into our memory. It’s easy to stay insulated within the walls of Klein and not think about the kind of career we will have and the lives we will touch once we leave law school. At least, I admit to getting so caught up in learning the material and focusing too much on completing all the readings for the next day that I forget what and who I’m doing it for.

That day in North Philly, 7 of the 8 people I met with had records that ended up being eligible for further investigation. I got to hear about one client’s struggle of trying to get a job with a record, and another client’s difficulty finding affordable and suitable housing for herself and her 3 kids. Through Expungement Project, I got the unique opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and share a day and a few stories with people I read about in school but don’t otherwise see, despite Temple Law being in North Philly.

Clients unduly thank me each time I work at the clinic, but in many ways, the Expungement Project has breathed life into me. I would recommend the Expungement Project to the confused, the adamant, or even simply the curious law student because it’s so important that we find meaning and depth in our studies, and Expungement Project has done just that for me. What started out as a simple choice and a means to a free lunch quickly became a driving force and a source of passion in my education here at Temple Law. What may have selfishly started out as a means of staying grounded and sane became a special opportunity to connect and give back to members of the community I just moved into. It puts my knowledge and skills to test in ways no textbook or class setting can.

The Expungment Project is open to all Temple Law students – even 1Ls! Click here to sign up for the next training, scheduled for Tuesday, February 21, and for the clinics after that.

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