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My Impact: A Conversation with 1999 Equal Justice Works Fellow Casey Trupin

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My Impact is a conversation series from Equal Justice Works, using interviews with alumni to shine a light on what’s possible with an Equal Justice Works Fellowship. We recently spoke with Casey Trupin, a 1999 Fellow hosted by Columbia Legal Services. Casey currently works as the director of the Raikes Foundation’s youth homelessness strategy.

Casey Trupin
Photo of Casey Trupin

The highest calling in 1999 Fellow Casey Trupin’s family, he said, has always involved “doing something that could better the community.” Following in the footsteps of his grandfathers, both of whom were public interest attorneys, Casey developed a passion for helping homeless youth before he ever got to law school—first in Latin America, then through an AmeriCorps VISTA fellowship. When he began law school at the University of Washington School of Law, Casey was quick to notice the prevalence of young people experiencing homelessness near his hometown university.

“That,” he realized, “was certainly an area that the law could do a lot about.”

As a law student, Casey interned at Columbia Legal Services (CLS), where he helped to tackle youth homelessness and its connections to the foster system through education outreach and referrals. These services were crucial for youth experiencing homelessness, but it soon became clear that without an attorney to actively work on their cases, “there really was a gap.” Seizing upon the opportunity to expand, Casey and CLS worked together to create an Equal Justice Works Fellowship that aimed to address systemic barriers instead of serving one client at a time.

In conversation with former Equal Justice Works Marketing Manager Shani DeWindt, Casey discussed the ongoing collaboration critical to his Fellowship’s success—not only with his host organization, but with his Fellowship sponsor, AT&T Wireless, which went above and beyond to participate in Casey’s work, even going so far as to donate cell phones for homeless youth needing to stay connected.

“I felt incredibly blessed. I looked around and I saw people who did the legal job that was available to them at the time, and I got to do the exact job that I wanted to do coming out of law school for a long time. That was not only unique in the world of law, it was unique in the world of careers.”

Two decades later, Casey has maintained valuable connections from his Fellowship, which he says played an important role in securing his job as the director of the Raikes Foundation’s youth homelessness strategy, a departure from direct service. “The reason that I had [the opportunity] has everything to do with my Equal Justice Works background. It was the fact that I was a lawyer working on these issues and that I was deeply committed to this area that they recruited me to come over.”

Casey also discussed the benefits of partaking in the Equal Justice Works alumni community, shared the joy of funding and mentoring new Fellows throughout his career, and gave advice for new lawyers and Fellows entering the field in 2020 amid a pandemic.

To learn more about becoming a 2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow and kickstart your public interest law career, visit here.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow