With my Wellman Hill grant, I undertook an internship at the law office of Misra Law Firm, LLC, principally involved in litigating consumer and employment class actions on behalf of individuals without the means to afford legal representation. The firm collaborates with the Northeast Ohio Legal Aid Society by either jointly representing low-income individuals or representing those who are unable to qualify for legal aid representation but also unable to afford counsel. I was fortunate enough to work under the direction of the principal of the firm, attorney Anand Misra, who defends people who are ignorant of the bureaucratic stipulations of the law and who would otherwise not be heard. I also had direct exposure to work done on behalf of Legal Aid clients, though my involvement with them was somewhat more limited because I was busy concentrating on my project.
My internship was structured around a project focused on the policy implications of recent changes in class action law upon unrepresented or low-income consumers. Data I collected by calling trial courts suggest that an overwhelming proportion of consumers who are sued simply do not understand their rights and obligations, and consequently do not even respond to the lawsuits, which are often without merit. Moreover, the entities bringing these lawsuits attempt to defraud customers for amounts that are not large enough to merit the expense of legal counsel. Thus, the abuses go unchallenged until a class action can be brought to aggregate the small claims of consumers. Class actions also allow courts to order the wrongdoers to stop the abusive tactics. However, a recent opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, AT&T v. Concepcion (2011) has been expected to have the practical impact of preventing class actions by consumers. I studied this aspect of class actions and proposed policy considerations for legislative action that may reverse the effects of the Supreme Court decision.
My work at Misra Law Firm was the perfect synthesis of my passions for the law and aiding those in need. Thanks to the Wellman Hill grant, I was able to work as an intern at a law office helping underrepresented people find a voice, to battle the injustice against them. It was truly a remarkable experience. I am indeed much obliged to the Wellman Hill for making this possible.