Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Having the opportunity to give back to your own community is one of the most rewarding feelings a person can have. Second-year student Hannah Altman found her way of doing exactly that through an internship position with the Lavender Legal Center in Cedar Rapids, a new legal clinic supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

Hannah knew that position was the perfect fit for her, so much so that it was the only on-campus interview she applied to. While she was looking for jobs, her goal was to find a non-profit that does legal advocacy work for the LGBTQ+ community. Luckily enough, that was the exact type of position Lavender Legal Center was looking to fill.

“As a lesbian, I see how underrepresented my community is in the legal field and how hard it is for queer people to find quality and completely inclusive legal help. Lavender is a legal center by and for LGBTQ+ people, and being able to speak to professionals that are members of your community is unbelievably comforting and helpful to people who could be afraid to get legal help elsewhere with an attorney who may or may not completely understand your identity and struggles. The best part about working with Lavender is getting to help people through some of the best moments of their lives (think adoptions, name and gender changes, etc.), and besides that being able to give back to the LGBTQ+ community in Iowa where I fully developed and came into my own identity is amazing,” she expressed.

Hannah came to Iowa from McHenry, Illinois, a small northwest suburb of Chicago. She decided to major in business at first but then switched to social justice after deciding she wanted to use her career to help people in underserved communities. While attending undergrad at the University of Iowa, Hannah was able to work with the law school through the honors program to put on pre-law events. Those opportunities, along with the International Law Seminar class she took with Professor Osiel as a senior, allowed her to get acquainted with people at the law school and helped her get a feel for law school classes and legal writing.

Law school has both challenges and rewards. For Hannah, the highlights have been being a part of the community at Iowa and the work she has done with the Lavender Legal Center. The most noticeable challenge for Hannah was the pressure she felt to be funneled into a big law position. “I feel like the school pushes us into big law in order to keep up their rankings and we aren’t encouraged and respected as much for going into Public Interest. The support systems are not at the same level,” stated Hannah, “The student body also gets into a groupthink where it’s all about big law and if you’re not there you’re not doing enough.”

However, even with those pressures, her advice for incoming law students is to not lose their original passions and motivations and to always remember to put their own self-care first. “Knowing to listen to yourself and what you need outside of school is so important to maintain sanity in school. Make sure you’re okay and healthy before you worry about school, no matter what external competition and pressure makes you feel,” she added.

After graduation, Hannah plans on moving to Denver to continue her work in non-profit public interest.