UVA students have the opportunity to learn about the legal process by working closely with local attorneys in our Legal Clinic. The commitment from our local attorneys and student interns has allowed our clinic to grow and meet a greater need in the community. Since 2013, we have added a summer legal clinic and increased the frequency of our clinics from once a month, to twice a month, allowing us to meet the needs of more clients all year long. While you can get to know our hard-working interns through our student spotlight series, we want to shine light on the dedicated attorneys who donate their time to our legal clinic.
Get to know Brittani Lemonds of MichieHamlett Attorneys at Law!
A recent graduate from the University of Richmond School of Law, Brittani now works at MichieHamlett Attorneys at Law in Charlottesville and has been a gracious volunteer at the Women’s Center’s Free Legal Clinic since the summer of 2016.
What was your concentration in law school and why does that interest you today?
I didn’t have a specific concentration at the beginning, which I think is the best way to approach law school. However, once I started getting acquainted with the class offerings and tried a few things out, I ultimately focused my course work on classes specifically dealing with domestic relations, children and the law, and collaborative law. My interest in this practice area really started during my second year of law school when I took “Family Law” with Professor Meredith Harbach. Professor Harbach is a real powerhouse of a woman and served as an invaluable mentor to me throughout law school. I think I felt drawn to family law because of the inherently personalized nature of the practice.
Currently, an area of the law that I find particularly interesting deals with the legal regulation of reproductive medicine. Most of my research during the third year of law school focused on Assisted Reproductive Technology (or “ART”). ART encompasses an industry in which modern advances in reproductive technology are constantly creating new ways for couples and individuals to achieve pregnancy and birth. While much of ART is currently based in contract law, it intersects with family law in a way that is particularly relevant with the changing legal landscape of marriage equality and reproductive freedom. It probably goes without saying, but I feel like it is an exciting and important time to be practicing family law. Like many other areas of the law, reproductive technology is evolving at a much faster pace than the legal framework that supports it. Similar to general family law practice, I find the personalized nature of ART particularly appealing. ART is an ever-changing area of the law that I soon hope to incorporate into my domestic practice.
What sort of volunteer work do you do or have you done in the past (either in law school or in previous firms)?
In the past, I’ve typically sought out service opportunities that provide resources or mentorship opportunities for women and children in my community. I’ve recently started working with the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) through my participation with the Chamber’s Leadership Council. SARA is a local organization that is dedicated to eliminating sexual violence and its impact by providing education, advocacy, and support to sexual assault victims and the community at large. Supporting and empowering women of all ages is very important to me. I hope to continue to find similar opportunities that allow me to engage with the Charlottesville community.
How did you first get involved with the Free Legal Clinic at the UVA Women’s Center?
I actually got involved with the UVA Women’s Center as a result of the encouragement of my colleagues at MichieHamlett. Most of the attorneys at my firm volunteer with the clinic on occasion. I’m fortunate to work at a firm that genuinely supports community outreach in the Charlottesville area. Volunteering at the Free Legal Clinic has been a rewarding experience for me.
Often times, finding and retaining an attorney can be intimidating or cost-prohibitive. The Clinic removes those barriers by providing free legal services to individuals in a centrally located, informal setting. As a licensed attorney, I feel a significant sense of responsibility to use my education and skills to give back to the community however I can.
What is the most rewarding experience you have had working as an attorney?
It’s difficult to identify one specific experience because the nature of domestic work is so personal. I’m constantly dealing with some of the most intimate details of people’s lives on a daily basis. I have found that I particularly enjoy building the foundation of trust crucial to any attorney-client relationship. I think that is especially important in domestic work given the nature of the practice. Every client has different needs and goals, which I need identify from the outset of the representation in order to ensure that I’m taking the necessary steps to best work toward them.
Each client walks into my office at different stages in their respective processes. Sometimes they’re angry, sometimes they’re confused, and sometimes they’re grieving deeply–it’s often some combination of all three. It is rewarding to see how my clients grow and change throughout the process. Probably like most attorneys, my primary goal is for my clients to walk out of my office in a better situation than when they walked in. Achieving equitable and ethical results for my clients that align with their goals is one of the finest rewards I could ask for from this profession.
What advice do you have for aspiring law students?
I would recommend taking the time to meet with an attorney in their community. Law school is a very challenging process that unfortunately doesn’t provide much practical experience. Talking to someone in your community (or the community where you are interested in practicing) can help you understand what the day-to-day practice actually entails. I think seeking out internships or shadowing opportunities with attorneys can provide invaluable experience for aspiring law students.
I’d also recommend not putting too much pressure on yourself to identify a specific practice area that you want to go into. It’s very difficult to really know what field you’re going to be interested in until you actually get some experience working in that practice area. Unlike undergraduate programs, most law schools do not require students to declare a concentration or “major.” This really provides law students with the autonomy to take a variety of courses in different specialties and narrow down those areas that they find the most compelling. Stay flexible throughout this process and focus on taking classes that will help you pass the bar exam.
What do you do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
I enjoy painting, reading, hiking, poetry, and art. Since moving to Virginia, I’ve made it a personal goal to go to every winery on the Monticello Wine Trail. I’ve currently been to 30 of 31 of those wineries. It’s definitely been a “labor of love.”
I am also an avid Detroit sports fan and proud University of Michigan alum (Go Blue).