The Joy of (Free) Learning

Lawline Staff | September 19, 2012

Our newest intern, Alex, put one of Lawline's courses to the true test.  As the most recent addition to the Lawline team, this post tells Alex's first experience with Lawline's course catalog.

I became acquainted with Lawline a little over two weeks ago when I began the process of applying to an internship position.  As I researched and spent time on the website, it quickly became obvious that this was a great company with a strong idea, strong sense of self, and strong company culture, all of which I knew I wanted to be a part.

But it wasn’t until I began my internship last week that I truly realized the amazing potential of for the general public, attorneys and non-attorneys alike, because what I didn’t truly grasp until I took my own first course as part of training was the vast potential for education and self-betterment the site offers.

First, a little bit of personal background: I graduated from Columbia University in May with a degree in English.  While I had (and have) a love of learning, reading, and writing, I was unsure of how I would apply my skills and passions in the real world.  At the same time, I was, and still am, involved with the independent production of a documentary chronicling the lives of three transgender women from Mexico seeking political asylum in the United States.  As a result, the majority of my free time recently has been spent researching political asylum, LGBT legislation both in the US and Mexico, ICE and detention policies, and more.  This self-study has been time consuming, informative, and also without much direction.  During the filming of the documentary, the immigration lawyer representing our main subject was giving a bit of background information on immigration and the process of seeking asylum, and I found myself intrigued by one topic in particular, the U Visa—which prevents deportation for immigrants who have been the victims of a crime and who have, in turn, cooperated with law enforcement—but as it did not directly apply to her client or any of our other subjects, she simply touched on it briefly before moving on.

As I browsed through the course catalog on Friday, I came across immigration lawyer Harlan York’s course on the U-Visa and finally learned about the legislation.  Even without a legal background, I came away from his lecture with a surprisingly clear and in-depth understanding of how the U-Visa fits into immigration law in general, about the reasons behind passing the U-Visa and for whom the U-Visa is meant.  And as I finished the course, I came to the realization that if I had used Lawline to guide my documentary research from the beginning, there would have been a direction and organization to my understanding of immigration law (rather than a haphazard amalgamation of Wikipedia articles).  Now that the film is nearing completion and we face questions of distribution, I am beginning to research the more complicated ins-and-outs of filmmaking, and I’m starting with Ethan Bordman’s course “Script to Screen: The Legal Challenges of Creating a Film.”

The ability to take courses for free on Lawline—and to really take them, to watch the course and to download reading material and take and save notes— allows me essentially to create a self-guided curriculum so that I can acquire the knowledge I need, keeping track of any gaps I might be missing, and furthermore to create information packets that I can share with everyone else working on the project.  While filming the documentary in Los Angeles, I was impressed by how driven the women I met were to learn about their rights.  Often with a limited knowledge of the English language, they have educated themselves about the law and how it affects them, have sought representation for themselves, and once they’ve acquired it, for others in their community.  I am struck by how helpful the concise organization of Lawline’s courses would be to non-lawyers who want (and sometimes need) to educate themselves as thoroughly and accurately about the law as possible.  There is far more to these courses than certification—there is a world of knowledge that is trustworthy and up-to-date and organized in a way that makes self-guided study not only feasible, but exciting.

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