The HOPE Public Interest Resource Center’s Fellows Program grants stipends and provides support to dedicated law students who spend a summer serving marginalized populations through unpaid internships at non-profit and governmental organizations both nationally and internationally. This summer, HOPE granted Fellowships to 14 law students including Miami Scholar Christina Robinson, a rising 3L. Robinson is working this summer as a legal intern with Lambda Legal in New York City.
Q: Why did you choose to spend your summer working with Lambda Legal?
CR: I came to law school to become a legal advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. After struggling to come out as bisexual my junior year of college, I joined the University of Miami’s undergraduate LGBTQ organization, SpectrUM. Being a part of SpectrUM illuminated my path toward self-acceptance, and I found purpose in using my life and career to inspire positive change for the LGBTQ community. I decided to apply to law school, where I eventually channeled my passion into action through legal internships.
As a 2L, I interned with the ACLU of Florida’s LGBTQ rights division, where I worked with my supervising attorney to ensure students in middle and high school have access to gay-straight alliances across Florida and to obtain hormone therapy for a transgender prisoner. The following semester I worked in the Children & Youth Law Clinic where my clinic partner and I helped legally change our transgender client’s name to align with his gender identity and obtain a letter from a doctor to allow him to begin hormone therapy.
Lambda Legal’s mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of LGBTQ people and those living with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy. Lambda has played a key role in pivotal LGBTQ cases across the country, including the landmark Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down laws criminalizing intimate relations between consenting same-sex adults. With Lambda Legal’s national reputation for excellence and its focus in LGBTQ and HIV advocacy, I knew interning for Lambda was the next step in my legal career.
Q: How has working at Lambda Legal affected your understanding of the issues facing the clients and community the agency serves?
CR: Working with Lambda Legal has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the LGBTQ movement on a broader scale. My focus has expanded from serving the LGBTQ community at the local level to the national one. For example, Lambda’s Fair Courts project looks not only at a singular case before one judge but more extensively at how patterns in judicial nominations and the subsequent decisions of nominees across the country can fundamentally alter our civil rights and access to the courts.
Lambda has also helped me focus my work on underserved communities that exist within the LGBTQ movement—the forgotten identities that badly need assistance and recognition—such as the intersex and transgender communities as well as those living with HIV/AIDS. For example, taking calls from Lambda Legal’s Help Desk has helped me more fully understand the everyday discrimination faced by these communities.
Q: How has your internship impacted your career trajectory?
CR: Interning at Lambda has made me more confident that I want to be a legal advocate for the LGBTQ community—that I can and will do this work upon graduation. I came to law school with a fuzzy sense that I wanted to serve the LGBTQ community through public interest work, but being at Lambda and watching my supervising attorneys make a powerful impact in peoples’ everyday lives has solidified that this is the work I want to do.
Q: What skills have you developed through your internship?
CR: Interning for Lambda has helped me hone my research and writing skills. I am more confident in my ability to write a solid legal memo, which will ultimately prepare me to write legal briefs for my own cases and clients someday.
Q: What experience at Miami Law best prepared you for your internship?
CR: Working with Professor Kele Stewart and my clinic partner in the Children & Youth Law Clinic on a case before the Third District Court of Appeals and another case involving a transgender client best prepared me for this internship. Both experiences provided me with a wealth of opportunities to write and be given feedback by Professor Stewart, which has been invaluable to me. The Clinic was the first time as a law student I truly felt like a lawyer.
Q: How does having institutional support for public interest work through the Miami Scholars Public Interest Program and HOPE Fellowship impact your experience as a law student?
CR: I chose to come to Miami Law because I knew as a Miami Scholar I would have a great deal of institutional support for public interest. I knew Miami Scholars were provided a stipend for one summer to do public interest work, and I knew that there was a chance the following year I would have the great fortune to become a HOPE Fellow if I worked hard enough.
What I didn’t know is that being a Miami Scholar would mean so much more to me than that. During my first year of law school, when I struggled through a heavy course load, our monthly Miami Scholar luncheons were the only thing that reminded me why I came to law school. The high-quality, individualized attention I received from the HOPE Office when I was sorting through internship opportunities for both my first and second summer was completely invaluable, and I know I would not have been nearly as successful without it. Most importantly, the Miami Scholars program gave me access to a community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about social justice. Every day my fellow Miami Scholars push and inspire me to be better than I was the day before.
A double Cane, Robinson graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami in 2013. Since beginning law school, she has actively engaged in social justice advocacy on and off campus. She spent her 1L summer working as a legal intern in New York with The Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Practice’s DNA Unit. As a 2L, she served as the Vice-President of OUTLaw, Secretary of the Society of Bar & Gavel, and as a member of the Miami Law Honor Council. That same year she interned with the ACLU of Florida and participated in the Children & Youth Law Clinic. As 3L, she will serve as the Writing Competition Editor of the Race and Social Justice Law Review, the President of OUTLaw, and the Co-Chair of the Mentoring and Alumni/Recruiting committee for the Public Interest Leadership Board.