Recent Graduates Share Thoughts on HOPE Public Interest Experience

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As Miami Law prepares to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center, Linet Suarez, JD ’17, and Kelly Shami, JD ’16, share their thoughts on how HOPE shaped their law school experiences and their career paths. Both grads found their way to the Florida Supreme Court after taking advantage of the many opportunities that HOPE provides to Miami Law students.

Linet Suarez, J.D. '17 and Kelly Shami, J.D.'16

Describe your current position with the Florida Supreme Court:

Linet Suarez:  I currently work as a Staff Attorney at the Florida Supreme Court. I help address and research any issues that may arise regarding extraordinary writs, Florida Bar discipline cases, and jury instructions. 

Kelly Shami: I currently work as a Staff Attorney for Justice R. Fred Lewis at the Supreme Court of Florida. In my position, I prepare all relevant memoranda for cases that come before the Court and make sure that the Justices are adequately informed about the cases before they vote. Once assigned a case, a staff attorney will handle it from beginning to end, often working closely with the lead Justice (in my case, Justice Lewis) at the opinion-drafting stage. In addition, I am the supervisor to the interns in Justice Lewis’s chambers. In that capacity, I help the interns with all aspects of their internship assignments, which involves teaching them about the jurisdiction of the Court, editing their memorandums, refining their writing and Bluebook skills, and reviewing additional research projects assigned.

Describe the path you took to get there: 

Suarez: My path began with my first internship through the HOPE Summer Public Interest Fellowship program. During my 1L summer, I served as an intern with Florida Legal Services, where I was introduced to federal and state litigation regarding Medicaid. That sparked my interest in healthcare and administrative law. After working at the Health Rights Clinic for a year, I realized I wanted experience working for a federal agency and the HOPE Fellowship helped provide the funding so that I could spend my summer in Washington, D.C. working at the General Counsel’s Office at NASA Headquarters. After NASA, I was not sure what to do next, but received endless support from HOPE encouraging me not to settle for a position that did not feel right for me. Following graduation and the bar exam, I joined The Florida Supreme Court, which was an excellent opportunity for me to learn law from a new perspective. 

Shami: In order to obtain my clerkship position at the Florida Supreme Court, I focused on fine-tuning my research, writing, and editing skills while in law school. Specifically, I was a Research Assistant to Professor Markus Wagner for my second and third years of law school and was a member of the University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review, serving as Editor-in-Chief during my third year. Through my work with Professor Wagner, I was able to refine my legal research skills and gain significant exposure to the drafting and development aspect of the academic writing process. As Editor-in-Chief, I was able to see the other side of the academic writing process—namely, editing, source checking, and Bluebook-checking. These two experiences perfectly prepared me to begin my position as a law clerk, because I was already acclimated to the rigors of writing-, research-, and editing-intensive work by the time I began my term.

How did HOPE inform your decisions along the way?

Suarez: HOPE has always encouraged me to follow my passion and create my own path. I was not the most traditional law student because I was unsure about almost everything throughout law school, except public interest. I knew I wanted to help, but I did not know how. HOPE helped me discover my goals and point me towards a direction that made sense for me.

Shami: For me, HOPE was an integral part of my experience at Miami Law and it largely shaped my development as an attorney. HOPE provided me with opportunities to pursue my passion for public interest work from the beginning of my law school career, and helped facilitate my summer internships at both the Public Defender’s Office, where I was a Summer Public Interest Fellow, and at the American Civil Liberties Union, where I was a HOPE Fellow. These experiences taught me so much about the law and helped me determine what kind of lawyer I wanted to be. They allowed me to focus on my passions, while fine tuning my legal skills, ultimately exposing me to so many different areas of law that I grew to love. HOPE also served as a sounding board and facilitator for anything I was interested in. One of the most fundamental lessons I learned through my interactions with HOPE is that there is no area of law that is untouched by public interest work. There is a need for pro bono work in every sector and there is something for every law student and lawyer in the public interest sector, whether it be real estate, bankruptcy, criminal law, tax, etc. This lesson was important for me because, throughout my time at Miami Law, I wanted to find ways to involve more law students in public interest and pro bono work. 

What advice do you have for current students about taking advantage of opportunities at Miami Law?

Suarez: I would advise current law students to intern and volunteer as much as possible. Miami Law is an excellent academic institution that will provide all the legal training you need, but there is no substitute for experience. Additionally, I would advise current law students to explore and be creative when it comes to your career path. If you do not see a position that sparks your interest, then create the position. There are an infinite number of ways to define success. 

Shami: My main advice for current and future Miami Law students is to find areas of law they are passionate about and come up with creative ways to serve the communities in need within those areas. The best resource I had for creating opportunities to get involved in areas of law I was interested in, while also fulfilling my personal drive to make a positive impact on my community, was the HOPE staff. The resources available at Miami Law, whether it be programs within the school or the vast and extremely supportive alumni base, provide students with everything they need to develop into wonderful, talented, and respected practicing attorneys. 

What would you like to share about HOPE as we celebrate 20 years?

Suarez: HOPE has shaped my entire understanding of the law and the role of a lawyer. As a student, I felt incredibly empowered because the HOPE Office always reminded me that change happens on all levels. As an alumni and a lawyer, I am so inspired by HOPE's work with current students. It reminds me why I became a lawyer and reignites my passion for social justice. 

Shami: I wonder how the Miami-Dade County community got by before HOPE was created twenty years ago. This office has done so much good in so many areas, and the students affiliated with HOPE work tirelessly and have impacted so many lives as a result. HOPE emphasizes the need for pro bono and public interest work and facilitates opportunities for students to engage with communities in need. It is an endless resource and a major asset to the school, and one that had such a significant impact on my development as an attorney. I am forever grateful, and I look forward to following its continued impact in the coming years.