2011 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Sean Burke
It is the singular focus to work on behalf of the immigrant, homeless, mentally disabled and otherwise marginalized members of our community that shapes the mission of legal aid and connects individually talented attorneys to create a tremendous community resource. It is with this passion that I desire to work on behalf of a growing and increasingly threatened and vulnerable population, the elderly. As members of the baby boomer generation move into their senior years, elder-law advocates will be further challenged to protect the small nest eggs of all seniors, especially the poor, from unscrupulous consumer scams. I hope to address the pervasive issue of consumer predators that take advantage of seniors, including those in care facilities or living on their own.
Making the connection:
As a summer law clerk helping meet basic legal needs of the homeless population in New Orleans, I noticed how access to justice and the legal system connected all unmet housing, health and economic needs. I realized working in civil legal services allows for both direct advocacy through representation as well as advocacy to change unjust social structures.
Surviving law school:
It is difficult for me to maintain perspective in the larger struggle for social justice without having connections to the clients for whom we wish to serve. Taking clinical courses helped keep finals and other law school stresses in perspective when I knew that my work in the housing and bankruptcy clinics could have real-life consequences for my clients.
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry: A modern epic that traces the calamitous circumstances of various outcasts in Indian society.
The Soul of Baseball - Joe Posnanski: The blend of my two favorite pastimes - sports and social justice.
The Complete Stories - Flannery O'Connor: Hard to go wrong if you just flip through the contents and pick a short story from this collection.
Words to live by:
We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
We are workers, not master builders; We are prophets of a future not our own.
-Attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero