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Lawyering in the Community: Meet Negin

NYLAG is proud to partner with students from New York City law schools who volunteer their skills to help NYLAG expand its reach. Negin Nader Bazrafkan, an LLM candidate at Fordham Law School, is one such volunteer, dedicating her free time and weekends to assisting immigrants with filing applications for asylum or employment authorization. Read about Negin’s experience in this piece she authored on behalf of NYLAG’s pro bono and volunteer unit.

“In the diverse city of New York City, it is hard not to be attracted to volunteer in pro bono work. It is here, amidst the vibrant streets and towering skyscrapers, that I found my purpose as a volunteer. Guided by the New York Immigration Coalition’s and New York Legal Assistance Group’s Key to the City Immigration Screening Clinics, I embarked on a journey of service and compassion. My tasks include legal screening processes (pre-application) and of course mostly important – the human aspect, where I have practiced my favorite skills: cultural and emotional intelligence including my bilingual skills.

As a law student, armed with knowledge and skills, I felt a deep sense of duty to give back to the community that embraced me. My own parents, once refugees themselves (fleeing from Iran in the 80’s), instilled in me the value of using my abilities to uplift others. Their courageous journey serves as a constant reminder of the transformative power of lending a helping hand.

Throughout the Fall semester, I dedicated my free time and weekends to the noble cause of assisting immigrants with their pre-application process. Together with a team of passionate volunteers, translators, and my fellow students from Fordham, we have dedicated our weekends to help immigrants. The NYLAG clinic is where individuals from all walks of life found guidance and hope – in the middle of a refuge or immigration crisis where they have no idea how to file an application for asylum cases or work permission.

For me, personal motivation doesn’t stem from a desire to feel as a better or good person. To be honest, I don’t feel like a better person when I help people. Instead, it arises from a deep sense of duty and responsibility with no reward of feeling like a better person. I know some people are motivated by feeling awarded and that is a good thing but personally, I feel much stronger when I keep helping others without the feeling of being rewarded.

The best thing about volunteering at NYLAG is being around friendly and passionate volunteers and the NYLAG staff are the best! I also appreciate listening to people’s stories. I remember last time I volunteered, a person was surprised that I knew what dialect he spoke and the name of the leader he had been demonstrating against and the reason why I knew it was because of a former client told me about another journey, so I gained knowledge from that story. I learn about new dialects and cultures every time.

As a law student, I firmly believe that we have an obligation to utilize our resources and knowledge to help those in need. For me, it’s not about personal rewards, but rather about ensuring that everyone has access to justice and fairness. Also, I learn from people’s stories from their home countries, and it gives me knowledge that I cannot learn in school. This is what truly motivates me.

Dedicate your time to doing pro bono work at NYLAG and never forget who you are and where you come from.”

To learn more about pro bono and volunteer opportunities at NYLAG, visit https://nylag.org/pro-bono-engagement-volunteerism/.

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