The Public Justice Advocacy Clinic student attorneys manage a wide variety of cases each semester and gain valuable experience representing clients in Freedom of Information Act, wage and hour, and unemployment compensation cases. This semester, all 12 student attorneys have also received at least one name change client, the majority of whom are transgender individuals from Central and South America who escaped persecution in their home countries prior to coming to the United States. They have either received or are seeking asylum.

One client, Ana, sat across from her student attorneys, Iman Naieem (JD '22) and R.J. Hernandez (JD '22), in a clinic conference room in anticipation of the start of her name change process. With the assistance of the interpreter seated next to her, Ana began to share her story so that her student attorneys could prepare her application for a name change.

Ana is a transgender woman who came to the United States to escape the treatment she received in Honduras where transgender individuals are subject to harassment and violence. She explained to the student attorneys that she had always had feelings of being a woman inside but “did not act on them out of respect for her family.” Then, last year, she decided to live authentically and approached her father to get his blessing to officially transition into being a woman. Ana described her father’s reply as warm assurance that her happiness was more important than anything.

The student attorneys continued their client interview, asking a series of questions to complete Ana’s name change application. They advised Ana that they were preparing the application for her signature before filing it in D.C. Superior Court. As everyone stood to say goodbye, Ana shared how much the application truly meant to her.

“Thank you so much for doing this work. It is so important,” said Ana. “I was close to taking my life not long ago because I couldn’t take all the harassment I was experiencing. There are many more like me and I hope you will help as many as you can. What you are doing is more than changing a name on a piece of paper. What you are doing is giving people like me the dignity to live the life we have always dreamed of and deserve. I can’t thank you enough.”

Ana is just one of many clients who will benefit from student attorneys’ work in the GW Law Clinics.