News

Equal Justice Works Shares Highlights from the 2023 Leadership Development Training

/ Blog Post

Group photo of Fellows at the 2023 Leadership Development Training
Group photo of Fellows at the 2023 Leadership Development Training

Each fall, Equal Justice Works invites Fellows to the annual Leadership Development Training (LDT). This three-day event brings together all current Fellows across our programs to learn, network, and build their skills. LDT helps our Fellows build a network of support and leaves them with tools to help them succeed in their projects and beyond. This year, the event was held in person for the first time since 2019, taking place from October 23 to 25 in Bethesda, Maryland.

At the event, Fellows heard from legal professionals and Fellow alumni about the skills that will help them succeed in their careers. We hosted over 300 participants this year, including 211 Fellows, 28 Fellow alumni, and 26 additional session facilitators. Event attendees participated in workshops covering topics ranging from systems and design thinking to hearing from alums about their career journeys.

The 2023 program opened with a keynote address from the CEO of Equal Justice Works, Verna Williams, during which she shared advice on how Fellows could succeed moving forward in their careers, as well as what motivated her when she was first starting out as a lawyer. She stressed to Fellows the importance of continual learning throughout one’s career in order to be the best possible advocate.

“As Fellows, you are embarking on work that is deeply needed,” said Verna. “But as new lawyers, advocates, or community organizers, you may not always know what is needed. So, my advice for you now is to be in service, lean into community, keep learning, and have fun.”

As Fellows, you are embarking on work that is deeply needed. But as new lawyers, advocates, or community organizers, you may not always know what is needed. So, my advice for you now is to be in service, lean into community, keep learning, and have fun.

Verna Williams /
CEO of Equal Justice Works

After the keynote address, Verna sat down with 2018 Fellow Alum Heba Estafanous, who is now the Managing Attorney at the Network for Victim Recovery DC, and dean Danielle M. Conway, who is dean and Donald J. Farage professor of law at Penn State Dickinson Law. In a conversation led by Verna, Heba and Dean Conway discussed their work and set the stage for an event focused on antiracist lawyering and design thinking.

The first day concluded with a reception hosted by the Equal Justice Works Alumni Advisory Council, allowing attendees to network with current Fellows and Fellow alumni, and to hear more about what the Alumni Advisory Council is involved in at Equal Justice Works.

Each day of the event included workshops that gave Fellows tools to use during their projects, advice from legal professionals, and issue area breakdowns to help build expertise. Along with the programming offered for the week, there was also a strong focus on the importance of antiracist lawyering and DEI work to achieve greater access to justice.

The second day of workshops ended with the opportunity for Fellows to attend the Scales of Justice, our annual fundraiser, allowing Fellows to connect with many other aspects of the Equal Justice Works community and continue to build their networks.

This year’s event concluded with remarks from Margaret Huang, the president and chief executive officer of Southern Poverty Law Center. Margaret shared advice for Fellows to consider as they returned home and responded to Fellow questions. Anna Uhler-McKeown, vice president of Fellowships at Equal Justice Works, followed Margaret by thanking Fellows for their participation and time.

“LDT holds special meaning for me,” said Anna. “Because it brings together our incredible community to talk about the work, create space for peers to connect, grow, and learn with each other, and have opportunities for our impact moving forward.”

LDT holds special meaning for me because it brings together our incredible community to talk about the work, create space for peers to connect, grow, and learn with each other, and have opportunities for our impact moving forward.

Anna Uhler-McKeown /
Vice President of Fellowships at Equal Justice Works

To learn more about the annual Leadership Development Training with Equal Justice Works, click here.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow