Amber Raffeet August got her first taste of immigration law when she was an undergraduate, when she worked as a receptionist for a legal clinic. It was an experience that had her thinking about going to law school.
“It was very interesting to me because lawyers have a really unique set of skills that lets them be really good problem solvers,” she said.
The staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee now does guardian ad litem work, representing indigent children in family law cases and giving those children a voice in legal matters.
“I really love my job,” she said. “It definitely checks all the boxes that I want in a position.
You’re doing something meaningful and impacting the lives of children in Milwaukee.”
That’s not to say the work is easy.
“I think the biggest challenge is that there are a lot of other factors weighing on these families that are beyond the court’s power,” Raffeet August said.
She noted that many families try to make their way through the legal system without a legal representative and struggle with poverty.
What’s more, guardian ad litem work is not well understood by the general public and even other lawyers. Most people have a hard time seeing that representing the best interests of a child is very different from being a child’s lawyer and providing legal services in court. As for other lawyers, Raffeet August says they often have inflated expectations of what GALs can do.
“We’re not magical,” she said. “At the end of the day we’re just another attorney in the court process. A lot of times other attorneys think we have power we don’t have, that we’re superhuman.”
Carmen Ortiz-Babilonia is Raffeet August’s supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society and noted that Raffeet August’s qualities include persistence and tenacity.
“She’s a person that’s very committed to the cases and to finding as much information as possible before making a recommendation to a court,” Ortiz-Babilonia said.
Raffeet August said her fellow staff attorney, Julie Whitney, has greatly influence how she does GAL work.
“She is both empathetic but at the same time strong willed, a strong advocate and amazing investigator,” Raffeet August said. “I try to take her best components and mix them with mine.”