Not all legal aid attorneys work on cases with clients in the courtroom. For legal aid to be effective, someone needs to figure out what works and what doesn’t and April Faith-Slaker is committed to that work. She helps to make access to justice a reality for everyone by investing her efforts in research and evaluation, policy work and service to low-income and underrepresented populations. She began as a PILI Intern in 2006 at Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, and now works as the Director of the Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives at the American Bar Association.
April’s PILI Internship at CVLS gave her valuable experience she continues to draw from. “Being able to meet with clients, draft pleadings, and go to court on a 711 license was an incredibly valuable part of my law school experience and stands out in my mind more than any of the classes I took,” she remembers.
Those hands-on experiences were a big part of April’s Internship. “I remember feeling a combination of gratitude and disbelief at how much trust was put in me by the clients,” she said. “It was very humbling to be put in the position where people were looking to me for help, and having the responsibility to then figure out how I could best help them.”
That drive to figure out how to best help people inspired April to focus her efforts on research and evaluations of local, state and national policy. April graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School in 2007, and began working at the Center for Children, Families and the Law at the University of Nebraska. She went on to earn a Master of Arts in Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University, which she felt was a natural next step in her exploration of law and policy. As she explained, “My master’s work was specifically on the translation of social science information into the juvenile justice system.”
April then worked on nationwide policy research at the ABA before returning to Nebraska as the Manager of Research and Evaluation at Legal Aid of Nebraska. After nearly two years, she came back to the ABA in June to direct their Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives.
Her initial courtroom experience as a PILI Intern informs much of the research and policy work she does now, and gave her a strong foundation on which she has built her career. “The PILI Internship gave me my first hands-on experience in the courtroom, and I’ll always really value that. Having chosen to pursue a career that is more research oriented, with an eye towards national policy, those first on-the-ground experiences have really resonated with me,” she said. “I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing now without having had those client-interaction and courtroom experiences that I was first exposed to at CVLS.”