MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A West Virginia University law student spent her summer advocating for children in the justice system.
“Children are the most resilient members of society,” said Olivia Lee, a third-year student at the WVU College of Law. “People often forget that they are more than the worst thing that has happened to them.”
Lee worked on 10 to 15 cases in Charleston, West Virginia, for ChildLaw Services. It is the only non-profit law firm in the Mountain State that represents children exclusively, no matter the circumstance. Most of Lee's work involved abuse and neglect cases stemming from the opioid epidemic.
“I met with my clients to evaluate their needs versus their wants,” she said. “I was able to argue on behalf of my clients in Circuit Court, write appeals, and actually get to know my clients.”
Lee credits several mentors at ChildLaw Services for guiding and inspiring her.
“Cathy Wallace, Elizabeth Davis, Monica Oglesby Holliday, and many more taught me to establish trust with my client, follow my gut, and be a zealous advocate,” she said.
Lee’s position at ChildLaw Services was funded by WVU Law’s Regina Charon Fellowship. It enabled her to earn a stipend of $5,500 for 10 weeks of employment. The fellowship was created in memory of the pioneering West Virginia lawyer and judge who earned her J.D. from WVU in 1976.
After her first year of law school, Lee was a Public Interest Advocates Fellow at Disability Rights of West Virginia. Part of her job required her to visit jails, prisons, state psychiatric facilities, and juvenile detention centers to ensure that they complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
That’s when Lee says she first became aware of the work by guardian ad litems, the court-appointed attorneys for children.
“Seeing a young child with no other options in a juvenile detention center last summer really struck a chord with me,” she said. “I look forward to continuing this work after I graduate.”
Meet Olivia Lee
Lee is a earning her J.D. with a concentration in Public Interest Law. She is a member of the Child and Family Advocacy Clinic, president of the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest, and secretary of Public Interest Advocates.
Lee earned her bachelor's degree from WVU in political science with minors in Spanish, English, and Women and Gender Studies. Throughout college, Lee worked as a Voter Engagement and Outreach Fellow for WV FREE, a statewide reproductive justice nonprofit. She is from Yawkey, West Virginia.