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Robin Runge

 The Project

During the Fellowship, Robin advocated for the employment rights of victims of domestic violence. 

Survivors of domestic and sexual violence make up a large percentage of the workforce and experience barriers to obtaining and maintaining employment. At the same time, economic security is a primary barrier to leaving abusive relationships. This project addressed this need by providing direct representation, education and awareness, and policy advocacy on the employment rights of survivors of domestic violence.  

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Robin:

  • Successfully built coalitions that drafted and advocated for passage of three California laws expanding employment protections for victims of domestic violence: (1) clarifying access to unemployment insurance; (2) requiring employers to provide unpaid job guaranteed leave from work to survivors to attend court proceedings related to seeking safety, heal from injuries and relocate; (3) expanding the purposes for taking this leave.
  • Brought landmark case that established that a psychological injury or illness caused by domestic violence may qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act requiring an accommodation and related protections from discrimination an retaliation.
  • Developed know your rights fact sheets on the employment rights of survivors and had them translated into 7 languages.
  • Conducted know your rights trainings for hundreds of survivors, service providers and allied service providers throughout California.
  • Received national federal grant from the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice to provide support and technical assistance to advocates and lawyers nationally on the employment rights of survivors. 

Next Steps

Robin is now

The Project

Yvonne worked to extend anti-discrimination laws to workfare and other welfare-related programs through advocacy, monitoring of employment laws and practices, and targeted litigation to enforce civil rights protections, particularly for African-American workers.

What’s Next?

Currently, Yvonne is a District of Columbia Superior Court Judge. Previously she served as counsel at Miller & Chevalier, where she worked on employment and employee benefit cases in local and federal courts.

Media

Judge Yvonne Williams Sworn in to Superior Court

D.C. Judge Explains Leniency in Hate Attack

The Project

As an Employment Opportunity Legal Corps Fellow, Ventura provided legal assistance to individuals with legal barriers to employment, such as expunging eligible criminal records and reinstating driving licenses.

What’s Next?

After her Fellowship, Ventura became a staff attorney at her host organization, Greater Boston Legal Services, where she provides critical legal advice and representation to low-income individuals.

Media

Ventura Dennis (’13) receives Outstanding Young Lawyers Award

The Project

Brendan helped West Virginians recovering from substance use disorder through Medication Assisted Treatment regain control of their lives by educating communities and removing legal barriers to their recovery through advocating for their access to employment, housing, and economic stability.

While there is no one demographic that been left unharmed by the opioid crisis, rural West Virginia has been the epicenter. Those lucky enough to survive and begin the long road to recovery face substantial socioeconomic barriers, including access to legal counsel to protect their rights.  Brendan’s project with Legal Aid of West Virginia provides access to legal counsel to address all the underlying issues to effectively mitigate key relapse factors.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship, Brendan:

  • Maintained the states only substance use disorder medical-legal partnership.
  • Trained attorneys/advocates statewide on substance use disorder advocacy and person-first language.
  • Represented clients on expungements, employment, housing, custody, and license reinstatements.
  • Worked with community partners to raise awareness and combat stigma against people in recovery.

Next Steps

Brendan’s project has secured funding to extend until at least 2022 and he and his host organization are in the late application stages for long-term, sustainable funding. Brendan and Legal Aid of West Virginia plan to expand the project to additional counties and recovery organizations.

Media

How the Pandemic Is Impacting the Opioid Crisis and People in Recovery

Helping My Community Take Action to Overcome and Heal from the Opioid Epidemic

Law graduate to offer assistance to those recovering from addiction

Wood '19 awarded Equal Justice Works fellowship

What it Takes to Keep a Promise

I became a lawyer so that I could help my community take action to overcome and heal from the opioid epidemic.

Brendan Wood /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Laura used direct representation, impact litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, community organizing, and education to combat predatory practices of employment agencies that exploit workers in low-wage industries, particularly immigrant workers, in the New York City metropolitan area.

New immigrants frequently rely on employment agencies to help them find work. In 2012, New York City had about 350 employment agencies, but advocates estimated that more than 1,000 agencies existed at the time, primarily located in communities with large immigrant populations. Unscrupulous agencies substantially control access to low-wage jobs, which enables them to charge exorbitant fees to job seekers and defraud workers. Agencies also knowingly place workers with employers that violate labor laws, engage in wage theft, and blacklist workers who complain.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Laura provided advice, referrals, or representation to 65 workers as well as know-your-rights presentations to nearly 600 individuals. She also served as counsel to New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) on employment agency issues and supported NICE in launching the Justice for Job Seekers campaign, a statewide coalition of about 30 New York workers’ rights organizations. The campaign advocated for state legislation to improve employment agency laws that were adopted in 2017.

Next Steps

After her Equal Justice Works Fellowship, Laura worked as a Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow with the Racial Justice Program at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In 2015, she joined the National Employment Law Project (NELP) where she is now the Immigrant Worker Justice Program Director.

Laura joined NELP in 2015 and is currently NELP’s Immigrant Worker Justice Program Director. Previously, Laura supported NELP’s efforts to create a good jobs economy by providing legal and technical assistance to local, state, and national campaigns to raise the minimum wage and enforce labor standards. Her work has included supporting campaigns to defend local policies from state preemption, expanding local authority to adopt pro-worker policies, and contributing to research on the abuse of state preemption. In her previous role as Legal Director of the Local Solutions Support Center’s Joint Project with NELP, Laura oversaw LSSC’s legal work focused on deploying proactive legal strategies to help communities resist and reverse state preemption laws.

Laura’s background includes a variety of social and economic justice-related work, including an Equal Justice Works Fellowship at LatinoJustice PRLDEF, where she represented immigrant workers in litigation and assisted community groups seeking policy change. As a Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, Laura supported litigation and conducted legal research related to debtors’ prisons, the school-to-prison pipeline, and other major sources of racial injustice in the U.S. Before attending law school, Laura worked for JUNTA for Progressive Action in New Haven, Connecticut, focusing on local economic development and immigrant worker advocacy.

Media

Two New York legislators are backing legislation to stop low wage workers from being preyed upon

Labor sharks sink teeth into low-wage immigrant workers

A State Inquiry Is Said to Target Job Agencies

The Project

Mirella provided legal assistance to the residents of Alameda County who have been involved in the criminal justice system, and who face barriers to employment. Through education and outreach, cross-practice referrals and weekly legal clinics, she will help clients obtain all available records remedies. Criminal record remedies for residents of Alameda County, who are facing barriers to employment due to their prior involvement in the criminal justice system.

What’s Next

During Mirella’s Fellowship, Mirella:

  • Provided direct legal representation for low income clients throughout Alameda County
  • Educated individuals in Alameda County about the new court remedies available to California residents who have had their driver’s licenses suspended
  • Removed the barriers to employment faced by many Alameda County residents

The Project

Benjamin Butler will provide direct representation to income-eligible Veterans to help improve the lives of low income and homeless Veterans by providing legal services that untimely lead to higher incomes, better health, safer housing, and family stability.

Veterans frequently face complex legal problems that stem from mental and physical injuries sustained during service. These issues, if left unresolved can lead to serious obstacles for Veterans. This program will focus on assisting with the legal needs of Veterans, in order to help to avoid or overcome these obstacles in order to achieve a better quality of life for Veterans.

The Project

Bethan works on Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s Clean Slate Project, which collaborates with community partners to provide direct reentry legal services for expungements and Certificates of Relief for dismissed charges and convictions across the state of North Carolina.

Today in the United States, about 1.6 million people are currently in prison; 4 million are on probation; and nearly 65 million have a criminal record. In the South, the prison population has grown faster than in any other region. Criminal justice is therefore a critically important issue–particularly so for communities of color.
Collateral consequences of a criminal conviction are formidable and often insurmountable barriers to successful reentry. They include disenfranchisement; denial of public employment and benefits; loss of professional licenses; and deportation. Southern states have more legal barriers to successful reentry than other regions of the country. According to a report by the Legal Action Center, which ranked all 50 states from best to worst based on the number of legal obstacles faced by people attempting to renter society, most of the southern states were ranked in the worst category, meaning they had the greatest number of roadblocks to reentry.
The entrenched criminal justice system is in urgent need of widespread reform. SCSJ’s Clean Slate Project is just a small piece of the overall effort to end mass incarceration and the overcriminalization of people of color. By providing community requested legal services to address collateral consequences, lawyers help directly affected people to obtain jobs and housing and ultimately join in community organizing efforts for change.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Bethan’s Fellowship, Bethan:

  • Filed petitions in over 30 of the 100 NC counties
  • Argued petitions in 7 counties
  • Held 5 legal services clinics in 4 counties
  • Engaged local court actors, including DAs, PDs, judges, and clerks, in learning about the Clean Slate Project and collateral consequences
  • Developed a case management system and recruited and trained 12 law school interns and community volunteers to expand caseload capacity while maintaining high quality service for clients
  • Continued providing direct legal services by holding 3 clinics
  • Expanded filing Certificate of Relief and expunction petitions to at least 10 other counties
  • Collaborated with partner organizations to challenge private landlords in denying housing to those with criminal records and Certificates of Relief
  • Challenged at the state appellate level several trial court denials of Certificates of Relief and expunction petitions.

The Project

Dafna Gozani, through Colorado Juvenile Defender Center’s We Believe in Youth Project, represents justice-involved youth and former youth remove barriers to employment.

CJDC’s ability to provide direct expungement and deregistration services for youth and former youth fills a gap in ancillary legal services in Colorado. This gap is particularly pronounced in the collateral consequences of juvenile delinquency cases. Because the public defender and other legal services agencies in Colorado do not provide representation to youth and former youth seeking to expunge their juvenile records or remove their names from juvenile registries, CJDC is the only nonprofit provider of legal services to remove these barriers to employment.

Fellowship Highlights

During Dafna’s Fellowship, Dafna:

  • Created an entirely new direct services project for the Colorado Juvenile Defender Center
  • Provided services to over 200 Individuals with Barriers to Employment
  • Removed 29 Barriers to Employment through Direct Representation• Expand CJDC’s We Believe in Youth Program
  • Created a Formal Pro Bono Referral Program
  • Continued to assist individuals with legal and employment services

The Project

Erica provided legal assistance to low-income individuals in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties experiencing legal barriers to employment, including direct representation for expungements and outreach to organizations serving unemployed and underemployed individuals.

Having seen how past interactions with law enforcement impacted clients in the family law, immigration, public benefits and civil rights contexts, Erica was happy to be able to use the law to free clients from the collateral consequences of having a criminal record through the expungement process.

Erica’s experience as a community organizer and Peace Corps Volunteer before law school taught her to listen to her clients, think creatively, build coalitions, and work cross-culturally.

Next Steps

Following her Fellowship, Erica remained on staff at the Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania (LASP). She is currently a supervising attorney of the community engagement unit at LASP.

Media

My Impact: A Conversation with 2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow Erica N. Briant