During the height of the pandemic, I began a practice of daily gratitude, spending time each day to recognize and acknowledge all that I am grateful for. As we approach the final days of 2023, and take a moment of pause before diving in to 2024, I want to share some moments from the past year that make me especially grateful.
First, our impact.
Since our founding, this organization has mobilized more than 2,500 Fellows, increased the capacity at hundreds of legal services organizations that host our Fellows, and created avenues for pro bono engagement by law firms and in-house legal teams. I’ve seen how impressive our platform is and the value this community brings to the public interest world. For me, this reinforces what a privilege it is to do this work and how important our role is in it. Simply put, our community is enormous! I’ve learned from my travels this past year that you don’t have to look too far in the public interest world to find one of our alums, host orgs or sponsors. So many in the legal community are connected to us, and I’m endlessly grateful for that connection and community in this challenging work.
Second, the willingness and excitement for growth.
I’m amazed and grateful for the impact of this organization and our community. I’m equally inspired by our collective interest in continued growth. As we look toward 2024 and beyond, I’m excited by the strategic vision that will guide our work moving forward. It is grounded in three pillars:
- Further infuse our work and programming with the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This past year, we included an anti-racist lawyering curriculum in our Leadership Development Training. In the next year, we’ll explore creating a racial justice program, similar to our Housing Justice and Disaster Resilience programs.
- Continue to diversify the field of public interest law professionals. We seek to expand our programming to include professionals that enhance our impact and contribute to the diversity of the legal profession.
- Advance the access-to-justice movement through data. We seek to increase awareness within the legal profession and among key decision makers about the broad societal benefits of addressing the access-to-justice crisis.
Lastly, I’m grateful for you.
This work has meaning and impact because of all the people we are so proud to collaborate with and support, including you! Take a look at some of the accomplishments from this year thanks to everyone who is a part of this community:
- In March, we held the first ever Disaster Resilience Symposium in St. Petersburg, Florida to connect our Disaster Resilience Program Fellows with legal, academic, and community voices instrumental in disaster law
- Our PSLF advocacy received the American Bar Association Grassroots Advocacy Award in March
- We launched the Crime Victims Advocacy Program, which increases access to legal aid for survivors of crime, especially in underserved Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities.
- We expanded the Housing Justice Program to South Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia
- Our 2023 Career Fair hosted the largest turnout of attendees to date, with over 4,000 registrants.
- We introduced Antiracist Training in our Leadership Development Training event for Fellows
- We welcomed five new members to our Alumni Advisory Council, and eight new members to our National Advisory Committee
- Editor’s addition: she didn’t include this originally in her list but we will: Forbes named Verna Williams to the 2023 50 Over 50 Impact list!
And if that wasn’t enough, check out just a few of the highlights from our Fellows this year:
- 2021 Fellow Carlos F. Ramos at SCOTUS
- 2022 Fellow Taylor Rumble helped launch the Berkeley County’s first Housing Court at Goose Creek Magistrate’s Office at Charleston Legal Access
- 2021 Fellow Caroline Cohn celebrated the decision to allow inmates to make phone calls for free in Massachusetts
- 2022 Fellow Casey Smith wrote about how Florida’s confusing voter registration system has become an “administrative trainwreck” that impedes voting rights, especially for returning citizens.
- 2022 Fellow Matthew Palmquist shared his work providing holistic representation for LGBTQIA+ clients
There is a buzz in the Equal Justice Works office and a lot of excitement among our community about our next chapter, with so many people expressing interest in helping us realize this vision. That, in and of itself is pretty gratifying.
Thank you for making 2023 so memorable, and cheers to a happy, healthy, and impactful 2024!