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With an undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and an interest in pursuing a career in law, Alec Pereira was accepted into the Drexel Kline School of Law in 2020. During his first summer of law school, Alec interned at TE Connectivity and met VIP Board President and volunteer Lee Zimmerman. When Alec mentioned pro bono work, Lee jumped at the opportunity to involve him with Philadelphia VIP.
“When Alec expressed interest in volunteering, I said let’s take a case together,” Lee said. “So we picked a case and worked on it during his first internship at TE. Usually, when interns go back to school, their mentor finishes their caseload. But Alec participated until the case was finished.”
The duo took their first case, an estate planning matter, in 2021, and Lee provided steady mentorship for Alec throughout the entire process. The team is now working on their third and fourth case together.
“Lee is wonderful. He is patient as he guides me throughout the entire process,” Alec said. “These cases have taught me so much because I am actually doing the work. I can read textbooks as much as I want and practice these hypothetical problems, which are important. But with VIP, I’m meeting clients face to face with the safety net of a mentor. It’s just an incredible learning environment.”
Lee agreed that meeting clients face-to-face made a huge difference when learning the law.
“When you interview them, you learn about this person and their life, their relationships, and their kids. Students learn about what this individual had to go through to even have their case available for a volunteer. You’re working on a human level with someone,” Lee said.
The first case Alec took was an estate planning case. Lee initially told the client about his mentorship with Alec, and then Alec met the client and walked her through her estate planning documents
“While I handled direct communication with the client and formed her estate planning documents, Lee had the final edits,” Alec said. “Then we would set up a time to meet, go over the documents, and notarize them.”
The first time he takes a certain type of case, Alec needs more guidance from Lee. But as he becomes familiar with the legal work required in each case and how to communicate with the clients, he is able to take the lead more and more.
“It’s an experience he doesn’t otherwise have. Alec really enjoys actually interacting with the clients and being a witness in documents that he was involved in preparing,” Lee said. “And from my standpoint, it may take more work initially for me, but the payback and the benefit is something I’m preparing for. My goal is to create a volunteer for life.”
“My advice to law students is to just do it if you can. Find a supervisor and volunteer with VIP. Handling these cases is an invaluable experience, something you can’t get in the classroom,” Alec says. “School is not the time to be comfortable. The best thing to do, the best exposure you can get, is to go and do it.”