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Life Outside the ‘Lexington Bubble’

“If you want to get involved in this type of work, you have to care for who needs your help at that moment.”

sequiera-sofia-t Life Outside the 'Lexington Bubble'Sofia Sequiera

Sofía Sequeira ’15
Intake Paralegal
Legal Services NYC, New York, N.Y.

Sofía Sequeira ’15 hears about 20 different stories of daily struggles from New York City residents everyday.

“The stories are sometimes really heartbreaking.”

But Sequeira wants to help change the lives of her clients, so she keeps listening.

“Even if I don’t feel like it or I am having a difficult day, I have to speak to 20 people whose lives are a complete mess and be willing and able to help and care about their issues,” Sequeira said. “It’s challenging but also very rewarding.”

Sequeira works as an intake paralegal for Legal Services NYC, which is a non-profit organization that offers free legal services to low-income NYC residents.

She screens the prospective clients in either English or Spanish to determine service eligibility. If they are eligible, she is able to give them advice and schedule them for future appointments to receive further assistance.

A psychology major and philosophy minor from Costa Rica, Sequeira came to Washington and Lee with an interest in community service and sought exposure to the legal field.

She started working at the W&L Law School’s Immigrant Rights Clinic assisting with Spanish speaking clients.

“If you want to get involved in this type of work, you have to care for who needs your help at that moment.”

Sequeira also tutored Hispanic community children through English for Speakers of Other Languages and was a part of the Student Association for International Learning.

She advised students to join clubs and activities at W&L that reflect their interests and passions, but her favorite memories, she says, are of spending countless hours in the Dining Hall ignoring her homework with friends.

Additionally, Sequeira says students should be aware of the “Lexington bubble” they might succumb to at W&L.

“I think when you’re at W&L you tend to forget that there’s a bigger world out there.”

She says students do not necessarily need to leave their comfort zone, but they should be conscious of the people and the community around them.

“There are people in Lexington who will benefit from knowing you.”

It is important for students to get involved in the community and get to know students at W&L with different backgrounds, according to Sequeira.

“Go out of your way to meet people who aren’t similar to you or have different interests. You will be surprised at how much you can learn from them.”

Sequeira says W&L courses made her more aware of the inequalities in society. She noted courses such as Effects of Poverty on Family and Children (PSYC 235), Social Inequality and Fair Opportunity (PHIL 242) and Stereotype, Prejudice and Discrimination (PSYC 269).

She also advises students to consider a gap year before pursuing graduate level education.

“When I was a senior, I wanted to go to law school right away, and most people would say ‘you should take a year off,'” Sequeira said, “But I didn’t want to go into the unknown.”

She says not going to law school right away has given her a broader perspective.

Sequeira’s student visa only allows her to work after graduation for one year. She hopes to start law school fall 2016 and is strongly considering W&L School of Law.

– by Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder ’16

A Day in the Life of an Intake Paralegal

6:30 a.m. Wake up! The alarm goes off. I turn on the coffee maker and jump into the shower.

7:45 a.m. Bus ride. I walk over to the bus stop which is right in front of my house in Bayonne, NJ.

8:20 – 8:40 a.m. Arrive in the office. The bus drops me off two blocks away from my office in Lower Manhattan.

9:15 a.m. Meeting with the team. Morning meeting with our supervisors to go over any changes in our scripts.

10:00 a.m. Start the hotline. I begin receiving calls from NYC residents seeking legal assistance.

12:00 p.m. Lunch time. I eat my homemade lunch while I watch a TV episode or take a walk.

4:00 p.m. Start the follow-up. I prepare appointment confirmation letters and update the calendars.

5:00 p.m. Leave the office. I drop off the mail on my way out and walk over to the bus stop.

5:25 p.m. Bus ride. I call my mother on FaceTime or read a book on way home.

6:30 p.m. Dinner time. My fiancé and I prepare dinner and lunch for the next day together.

7:00 p.m. Relaxing time. I watch TV, read a book, do laundry, skype with my family or go to the gym.