Washington, DC – Equal Justice Works®, the nation’s leading provider of public interest law opportunities, will mark a milestone in 2011 and celebrate 25 Years of Working toward Equal Justice for All. Founded in 1986 by a group of students from 14 law schools who wanted to expand the availability of legal services to underrepresented populations, Equal Justice Works (formerly known as the National Association for Public Interest Law) has grown exponentially and thousands of individuals are helped each year as a result of its programs.
The belief that the poorest and most vulnerable among us deserve the same access to justice and quality legal representation as more fortunate citizens is a fundamental ideal of our judicial system; however, this ideal is not always the reality. Equal Justice Works is committed to making legal assistance available to those who need it most by expanding public interest law - a field not limited by a specific practice of law, but rather defined as the act of advocating for those who are vulnerable and segmented from society. For a quarter of a century, Equal Justice Works has encouraged attorneys to address the inequalities in our legal system by providing public interest opportunities and promoting the growth of public interest programs on law school campuses to help cultivate the next generation of public interest lawyers.
Through the Equal Justice Works Fellowship program, the largest postgraduate legal fellowship program in the country, the organization provides opportunities for talented attorneys to work in a variety of public interest areas, including domestic violence, civil rights, housing and homelessness, and environmental justice, providing much needed legal services to causes and populations that are often underserved. Currently there are 170 Equal Justice Works fellows working in communities across the country, including: Munmeeth Soni, who is protecting immigrant victims of human trafficking and domestic violence in California; Brian Howe, who is offering foreclosure assistance to the people of Wilmington, Ohio, where 15 percent of the population is unemployed; and Elizabeth Kugler in Los Angeles who is fighting to obtain benefits for female veterans suffering from military sexual trauma.
“Early in my career I worked for a small public interest law firm,” said Equal Justice Works Executive Director David Stern, who has led the organization for 15 years. “What I learned is that public interest practice is incredibly hard work and there are not nearly enough lawyers working on behalf of vulnerable people and communities that experience injustice. I became convinced that we needed an army of talented and impassioned lawyers to make justice a reality in this country. That’s precisely what we do at Equal Justice Works –we mobilize the next generation of lawyers to fight injustice.”
Equal Justice Works programs also include Summer Corps, an AmeriCorps funded program that gives law students an opportunity to gain experience in public interest law during their summer break, and the recently launched Public Defender Corps, an innovative fellowship program developed in partnership with Southern Public Defender Training Center to address the growing national crisis in indigent defense and elevate the quality of the public defense in the U.S. The organization also provides resources for prospective law students interested in public interest careers; works with law schools to expand public interest programs and opportunities on campuses; and offers advice to those pursuing public service legal careers on ways to reduce and manage educational debt.
Since 1986, Equal Justice Works has fought for equal justice for all by helping lawyers help communities and launched the careers of more than 1,000 public interest law leaders who have gone on to positively impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals by holding public office, founding nonprofits and becoming advocates for those in need. In celebration of its 25 Years of Working toward Equal Justice for All and looking ahead to the future, Equal Justice Works’ 25th Anniversary celebration will culminate with a Gala on Thursday, October 20, 2011 in Washington, DC.
# # #
Equal Justice Works®is the national leader in creating public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers. Collaborating with the nation’s leading law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments and nonprofit organizations, Equal Justice Works offers a continuum of opportunities that provide the training and skills that enable attorneys to provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes. In 2011, Equal Justice Works will celebrate 25 years of mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to public interest law. Equal Justice Works is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. For additional information about Equal Justice Works, please visit www.equaljusticeworks.org.