The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ILS offers volunteer, internship positions

Meryl Guyer | Thursday, April 15, 2004

Students interested in law school or preparing for a career in the public sector may be able to take advantage of internships for college credit during the school year. Opportunities for students to volunteer and intern at Indiana Legal Services (ILS) in downtown South Bend are increasing as a result of cuts in areas previously manned by Americorps volunteers.

Providing the educational certificate and housing expenses for the volunteers proved too costly for ILS, especially during a difficult economic period where nonprofit organizations, have recently suffered. Instead, ILS will look to supplement its force with volunteers and interns from the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and IUSB, according to Heather Dicks, the volunteer coordinator for ILS.

ILS is a nonprofit law firm that provides legal counsel for low-income citizens involved in civil cases. These cases may range from eviction to domestic violence to divorce, to access to health care and government benefits.

According to Dicks, the role of interns and volunteers is vital to the organization because they handle the majority of first contacts with clients. The volunteer spends time gathering information over the phone according to checklists appropriate to each type of case to ensure that ILS can serve the client according to federal guidelines, she said.

ILS is partially funded by the government, as well as through private donations, and is therefore committed to serving individuals who fall within 125 percent of the federal poverty line.

After the interview, the intern writes a report for an attorney from the firm to review. The attorneys are not able to take every case they see because of their limited staff, but ILS handles roughly 2,000 cases a year. Interns and volunteers, therefore, serve as the first connection between the client and the attorney.

“It’s a detail-oriented position that requires good writing, listening, and interviewing skills, as well as empathy for people in some very distressing situations,” Dicks said.

David Stevens, a Notre Dame senior who has worked with ILS since Jan. 2003, will continue to work at the office when he begins his at Notre Dame’s Law School next year.

Stevens cited his experience with ILS through an internship in the political science department as one motivation for going to law school. Beyond the influence ILS has had on his plans for law school, Stevens recommends it as an internship for students from all majors.

“It’s worthwhile because you can see that the organization does make an impact on people’s lives and there are people out there who need the services they provide,” he said.

Public information sessions for individuals interested in volunteering or interning with ILS are scheduled for April 20 at 2:00 p.m. and April 23 at 10:00 a.m.