As a law student aspiring to pursue civil rights law and contribute to progressive change, it was difficult to find my footing in the legal field in a state like Texas. When starting law school, I expected to meet several like-minded students who wanted to serve their community, help others, and make a difference in the world. However, I was surprised to find that many of my classmates were not driven by these values, and even worse, neither was the law itself.
I found that in my classes, I often questioned the impact the law would have on certain minority groups, though my peers were not questioning this. Additionally, while I came to law school to learn how I would one day become a movement lawyer, protecting, and progressing others’ rights through impact litigation, I quickly realized that this is not something you learn in the classroom. That is why working as a Summer Law Clerk at Texas Civil Rights Project was so meaningful to me.
Kaylie Hidalgo (right) with previous TCRP Law Clerk, Sarah Abdel-Motaleb (left), tabling for a student organization at Texas A&M University.
This summer, I worked with both the Voting Rights and Criminal Injustice team at TCRP. I was able to work on TCRP’s current litigation and response strategies to the slew of restrictive laws passed in Texas’s infamous 2021 legislative session. Not only did it feel great to be doing the work I have dreamed of doing since I was in high school and decided to go to law school in the first place, but it was also just a relief to know that there are lawyers and organizations focused on pushing the same progressive values that I treasure and protecting people’s rights. Even more encouraging, was discussing the impacts of these laws on people’s day-to-day lives with attorneys and other legal workers and recognizing the harmful effects of these laws that are seldom acknowledged or discussed in law school.
Being a law clerk has allowed me to explore two areas of civil rights law close to my heart. I have had the pleasure of working on a multitude of issues, such as voting rights challenges under the First Amendment, religious exemptions under the First Amendment, strategies for petitioning the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, and challenging unlawful prison conditions without increasing the carceral state.
After two years of law school without working on what brought me to law school – civil rights law – I began to feel discouraged that I was not good enough to become a civil rights lawyer. Working at TCRP renewed my sense of hope in myself and in the future. I know now that there are fantastic people at TCRP and beyond, fighting to make Texas a place that many hope it can be, and that I can join that fight too.