Karissa Phelps

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Education:

  • Eastern University, Bachelor of Social Work
  • Temple University, Master of Social Work

Job: Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow at Temple Legal Aid Office

Program: Full-Time Day

Experiential Opportunities

I tried to do a clinic or practicum every semester I was able to – for me, the hands on experience and work in the real world was critical. It reminded me why I came to law school – to help real people. It gave me the opportunity to apply the theoreticals that I was learning in the classroom, and it helped me narrow down the things I was considering doing with my law degree. I did my first summer at Montgomery County DA’s office, my second summer at the Support Center for Child Advocates, two semesters in Temple’s Family Law Litigation Clinic, a practicum with Esperanza Immigration Legal Services, and two semesters in a practicum with a federal judge. Each was extremely eye-opening into that world of law and practice (criminal, child welfare, family, immigration, judicial). I would highly recommend students explore areas of law they think they may want to practice in the real world. It’s a great way to meet lawyers and figure out what kind of work you enjoy (and do not enjoy!) doing.

Impact

I will be working out of Temple’s Legal Aid Office for the next two years as a Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow. Being a “fellow” means I have two years to work on developing law and practice in a specific area. I’ll be specifically working on improving the “pathways” to kinship care for children placed in the foster care system. I will get to do policy work as well as direct representation. I get to join the efforts to continually improve our child welfare system for children, parents, and families. This is a great opportunity because I’ll be able to learn, network, research, practice, and make an impact right out of school.

Temple Law Lessons

Connect with your reasons for going to law school and surround yourself with people who support you. Everyone experiences times when they think, “Why am I doing this? Is all this work really worth it?” I asked myself that at least once a semester, and each time my husband would ask me, “Do you want to be a lawyer?” Sometimes I could answer more confidently than others, but I could always respond, “Yes!” because I knew why I had chosen to make this investment and commitment. Know why you’ve made this a goal, so when those times of doubt or lack of motivation roll around, you can answer the question, “Is this really worth it?” with “Yes!”

Also, do your best in every class, practicum, clinic, etc. you sign up for — you never know which may turn into a job opportunity, a valuable mentorship, or a beaming recommendation letter. The professors and supervisors who evaluate your work are great resources. They see who works diligently and who gets by with the bare minimum. As you figure out what you want to do, you can then seek guidance and connections from those who know how you work and know your strengths and weaknesses. The trick is, you never know which professor or supervisor you will best connect with or will end up helping you the most. So don’t just get by, doing the minimum, but take advantage of the opportunities to learn and grow the most you can while you are a student and can be taught from your mistakes.