Life Beyond the Classroom – Heryka Knoespel

KnoespelHAt W&L Law, students benefit from the many experiences and learning opportunities both within and beyond the classroom.  We asked several of our current law students to discuss the activities and organizations they have chosen to devote their time and energies to.   Today, 3L Heryka Knoespel explains her involvement in the Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA).

Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA) is an organization open to all law students interested in learning about issues affecting the Latin American community.

LALSA has launched a new initiative this year—Spanish for Lawyers. Program participants meet every Thursday for an hour of Spanish language immersion. The Program seeks to train law students to represent Spanish-speaking clients. Professor David Baluarte teaches the Program. We are extremely lucky to have Professor Baluarte leading the sessions. Professor Baluarte previously brought cases against foreign governments for human rights violations in Spanish. His mastery of the Spanish language and previous experience litigating cases in Spanish make him a tremendous asset to the Program. Every week the group learns new legal terms, phrases and concepts. Then, we do various simulations to practice our newly learned legal terms. Even though we have various levels of Spanish ability within the group, we all feel very comfortable speaking in Spanish with one another. It is a very supportive, nourishing environment. We encourage one another and help each other when someone forgets a word in Spanish. Program participants often share with me how much they enjoy this time to practice their Spanish. I have personally learned a lot from the Program. For example, I can now explain to clients in Spanish how their case will move through the court system and which court has jurisdiction to hear their case. We have spent the first several weeks of the Program mastering basic legal terminology. Now we will begin focusing our weekly sessions on specialized areas of law. Because of the legal interests of those in our group, our upcoming sessions will focus on criminal law, family law, corporate law, and intellectual property law. I am looking forward to learning terminology that will enable me to have conversations with others about these areas in Spanish.

Additionally, this year LALSA has partnered with the Washington and Lee Immigrant Rights Clinic to plan events to raise awareness of immigration issues facing our nation and state. Responding to the recent talk of immigration reform, we have planned two major events centered on immigration issues for the Fall semester.

First, we will be screening the documentary “9500 Liberty.” “9500 Liberty” documents the reaction in Prince William County, Virginia, after the County implemented an Arizona-style immigration ordinance several years ago. A local ordinance required police to question people who appeared to be undocumented immigrants. The film, which debuted on YouTube in 2010, tells the story of the racial tension. Although the ordinance was later repealed, we chose this documentary because it shows how ordinances can create significant obstacles for undocumented individuals that “documented” persons take for granted. We felt that watching this documentary, as a student body, will help us understand the struggles undocumented persons face.

Secondly, we will have an event featuring Edgar Aranda-Yanoc. Mr Aranda-Yanoc currently works with the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program as Organizing Coordinator. He is also the Chair of the Board of Directors for Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Day laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). Under his leadership, the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO), in collaboration with several organizations, individuals, and communities of faith have defeated legislative initiatives that could harm immigrant communities in the commonwealth. He will be speaking about several current immigration issues at the federal and state level. Topics will include federal immigration reform, the impact of the federal program “Secure Communities” on local communities, state barriers to driver’s licenses for undocumented persons, and the struggle for in-state tuition rates for undocumented persons.  We hope that both events will help the W&L community better understand immigration issues in the United States.

Because law school can be stressful, student organizations are a great way to de-stress while building relationships with your peers. This year LALSA has been a great vehicle for me to get to know others that share my interests.

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