Isabel Oalican, BMC ’23

HIAS: Legal Intake Internship

Semester: Spring 2023

Praxis Course: POLS 420 Praxis Fieldwork Seminar: Politics, Policy, and Power

Faculty Advisor: Marissa Golden

Field Site: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania

Field Supervisor: Rona Gershon

Praxis Poster:



Further Context:

This semester I interned as a legal intake intern for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania (HIASPA). HIASPA was created with the intention of assisting Jewish refugees, and since the 1970s has expanded to assist refugees of all faiths and backgrounds.

As a legal intake intern, I was responsible for conducting intake interviews during hotline hours for incoming clients and inputting this information into a law-based database called Law Logix. This work was done remotely during hotline hours on Wednesdays from 12-1 and Thursdays from 2-430PM. During intake, I would ask clients for basic information as well as a series of questions that would determine whether they qualified for our immigration services. Our services include representation for refugees, asylees, domestic violence survivors, immigrant youth, survivors of torture, immigrant victims of crime, and elderly and disabled immigrants. Performing intake allowed me to gain familiarity with immigration law as well as the eligibility requirements for immigration benefits.

Following intake, I would maintain cases via case notes. Case notes was where me and their attorneys would communicate next steps, referrals, client information, and eventually close each case. As I became more comfortable intaking clients, I had the opportunity to assist them with small tasks in the case notes such as filling out client forms. The ability to intake and manage client cases gave me relevant experience in legal management that will be transferable to the paralegal work I will be doing following graduation.

During my internship I also had the opportunity to shadow an Immigrant Youth Advocacy Staff Attorney. Shadowing allowed me to observe representation to unaccompanied children seeking asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status before USCIS and the Immigrant Court. This experience exposed me to the preparation process for asylees prior to their asylum interview. I became familiar with how strategic legal questioning can help build a case for presentation in front of immigration court. I also observed multiple Know Your Rights presentations to elementary and middle schools, becoming familiar with immigrant rights and immigrant communities in Philadelphia. Shadowing an immigration attorney was an invaluable experience as it gave me a look into public interest law as a career.

Overall, my experience at HIASPA was extremely rewarding and engaging. My boss was very attentive to my questions and supportive of my desire to shadow an attorney in person. I would highly recommend interning at HIASPA to those interesting in pursuing public interest law.