UC student’s passion for helping manifests in work with Cleveland Legal Aid

A woman standing outside a building with a sign that reads, "Welcome. College of Law."

University of Cincinnati College of Law students always find ways to make a difference, and Heather Campbell is no exception. This past summer, the third-year student gained valuable experience as a summer associate at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland in the Family Law Practice Group. She primarily worked with clients who were seeking divorce or civil protection due to domestic violence.

“I worked directly with clients by conducting interviews to determine whether their case was one with which Legal Aid was able to assist, either immediately or in the future,” Campbell explained. 

If a case was accepted, Campbell was responsible for gathering information necessary to build their case and advocate for the clients. Her job responsibilities included drafting applications, pleadings, and affidavits, as well as preparing clients for their appearances at hearings.

In response to COVID-19, Campbell said she also played an important role for the Ohio Supreme Court by drafting a policy memo regarding best practices for video-conferencing in domestic violence hearings.

Campbell acknowledged the challenges that came with working remotely due to the ongoing pandemic. However, this proved to be an excellent learning and growth experience for her.

“When I accepted the position, I was not anticipating all the work would be done remotely," she said. "All my previous experience in building relationships with clients had been in-person, so it was a considerable adjustment for me to create that rapport over the phone by humanizing myself and the client.”

I’ve always been passionate about social justice, and am strongly of the belief that basic human rights and dignities are not up for debate.

Heather Campbell

For Campbell, it was important to express empathy for her clients by listening to their stories and validating their experiences. Asking questions from a prepared list wouldn’t have created that same connection. By the end of the summer, she became more skilled and comfortable with asking direct and sometimes uncomfortable questions so she could build the strongest case for her clients.

This summer experience also allowed Campbell to work closely with experts in the field of domestic violence.

“I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with Alexandria Ruden, a senior attorney with 40 years of experience in domestic violence law, and who literally writes the book on Ohio domestic violence law,” she said.

Overall, the summer experience proved valuable for Campbell: “I can’t say enough good things about my summer experience with Cleveland Legal Aid,” she said.

During the summer, the organization adapted its program to keep the summer associates on in spite of COVID-19, and it also provided an experience that was as close as possible to working in-person.

Passionate about people