Student Spotlight: Alijah Futterman ’24

Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar

Tell us about your experience in the Criminal Defense and Reentry Clinic.

Alijah Futterman
Alijah Futterman ’24

CDRC has been the highlight of my law school experience. The clinic has deepened my thinking about what it means to be an effective advocate inside and outside of the courtroom and has given me practical tools for advocacy. While Professor Vincent Southerland teaches us the skills a public defender needs at each stage of a client’s criminal case, I have the opportunity to put those skills to practice in my fieldwork, representing indigent clients in the Bronx. As a part of my fieldwork, I’ve had the opportunity to represent clients at arraignments, write motions, and prepare for and observe a homicide trial. Beyond learning the practical skills for client advocacy, the clinic has made me reflect on what it means to advocate within a legal system built to harm my Black and brown clients. Seeing how the criminal legal system harms my clients and their families in my fieldwork, and reflecting on how public defenders can perpetuate and reduce that harm in seminar, is shaping my vision of the kind of advocate I want to be.

What lessons or takeaways have you gained from your experience as a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar?

The RTK community has been a vital support for me. I am so grateful to be in community with people who are pushing my thinking about legal advocacy, people who are helping me navigate the challenges of law school classes and internships, and people who I know I will be able to to lean on beyond law school through the challenges of pursuing a career in public interest law. Through the difficulties of law school and the difficulties of working within an unjust legal system, the RTK community gives me hope. 

Favorite place to relax in New York City?

Land to Sea coffee shop in Brooklyn.

Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?

Listening to music.

Posted February 28, 2023