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Stipend program helps law students help their communities

August 12, 2011 : Allison Cundiff/Liberty University News Service

Cindy Shin (left), a third-year law student, works with Adam Stanley, a Liberty alumnus and attorney in the Lynchburg Public Defender Office.

When third-year Liberty University School of Law student Cindy Shin emigrated from South Korea to the United States at age 11, the only English words she knew were yes, no, and the numbers one, two and three.

“My parents didn’t speak English very well,” she said. “I realized there are a lot of people in my boat that needed a lot of legal assistance … because of language reasons, cultural barriers. I thought that maybe if I grew up and started speaking English well enough that I could pursue law and start helping people who were in my situation.”

Shin has come a long way since childhood. She graduated with an East Asian and International Studies degree from Yale University in 2007 and was accepted to Liberty University School of Law in 2009. This summer, she was one of five School of Law students selected to receive $1,000 stipends from the Virginia Law Foundation to support public service internships.

Shin chose to do a three-month internship this summer at the Lynchburg Public Defender Office, where she gained hands-on experience while helping the community.

A typical day for Shin involved shadowing supervising attorneys to Circuit Court or General District Court and working with mostly misdemeanor cases. She has also volunteered with juvenile offenders for more than a year.

Shin said watching her supervising attorneys interact with clients has changed her perception of the job.

“When you’re reading law books, they talk about criminals … but then what I got to realize from this experience is that they’re just people, too, they’re sinners like all of us,” Shin said. “It’s wonderful that they do have someone like the attorneys in this office who are willing to defend them when they’re in their worst situations.”

Adam Stanley, one of Shin’s supervising attorneys, graduated from Liberty University School of Law in 2010 and began working at the Lynchburg Public Defender Office in December. He received the same stipends from the Virginia Law Foundation twice while attending law school, and also did his internships at the Public Defender Office.

“It’s a good way to give back to the community,” he said. “We work with a segment of society that in many ways is voiceless. They’re very disenfranchised and they really have, at times, no one in their corner. You’re the only one that speaks for them … you have a chance to witness to those people, to help them out and do some good for them.”

Other Liberty law students receiving stipends for internships this summer included Karlee Shelton (Class of 2012), who worked at the Virginia Legal Aid Society in Lynchburg; Daniel Mook (Class of 2012), who worked at the Pittsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office; Hillary Webster (Class of 2013), who worked at the Virginia Legal Aid Society in Danville, Va.; and Rachel Hepkins (Class of 2012), who worked with the Refugee and Immigration Services Office in Roanoke.

“We are grateful to the Virginia Law Foundation for their contribution to the future of our students as they serve the community,” said Matt Barber, Associate Dean for Career and Professional Development at the School of Law. “Everyone wins. Members of the community benefit from aid provided by our students – some of the best and the brightest in the country – while our students are richly blessed to serve both the community at large and our Lord Jesus. This program enables ‘champions for Christ’ to be just that.”

The Virginia Law Foundation was established in 1974 and provides civil legal services to the poor, educates the public about law, offers not-for-profit continuing legal education for Virginia lawyers and helps provide Court Appointed Special Advocates programs.