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My Impact: A Conversation with 2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow Max Tipping

/ Blog Post

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. In this installment, former National Advisory Committee Member and public interest attorney Kaile Bennett spoke with Max Tipping, a 2015 Fellow cosponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP and Steptoe & Johnson LLP. Max currently works as the policy director at Community Spring, an organization he cofounded.

Max Tipping believes in the power of community, and the meaningful role that community members play in effecting sustainable change. For the past six years, his work has focused on policy and legal advocacy around housing and homelessness.

“I didn’t always want to be a lawyer,” Max said. “It [wasn’t] until later in college that I started working on issues around housing and homelessness. That’s kind of when I started to piece together that these were bigger structural issues.”

Motivated to make a difference, Max joined the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless (Legal Clinic), where he served as an Equal Justice Works Fellow from 2015 to 2017. As a Fellow, Max supported families at risk of homelessness in Washington, D.C.’s rapid re-housing program. Under rapid re-housing, the D.C. government provides temporary rent subsidies to families in the hope that they’ll eventually gain financial stability. While the program is well-intentioned, Max discovered that many families plunge back into homelessness when the subsidies end. At the Legal Clinic, Max authored “Set Up To Fail,” a report that examined data on D.C.’s rapid re-housing program and the slew of problems that families face while enrolled in the program. “Decision makers viewed [rapid re-housing] as the answer to all family homelessness in D.C.,” commented Max. “I think we succeeded in showing that it’s a little bit more complicated than that. There are actually a lot of folks who are ending up in a worse position because of the way this program is being operated.”

Max also shared advice for law students and recent graduates interested in applying for an Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship. “If you’re able to intern ahead of time with an organization that you might want to build a project with, that’s really as good as it gets,” he said. “They want to know who you are, before they sign on to supporting your project.” Max credits much of his Fellowship success to his supervisor Amber Harding, a 2003 Equal Justice Works Fellow. “She had the expertise of how to make a Fellowship project work… of how to adjust and build it,” he said. “You come up with all these lovely plans and then when you put them into action in the real world it is messy.”

Since completing his Fellowship, Max has been busy working at Community Spring, a nonprofit organization he cofounded that aims to “both dismantle structural poverty and also spur economic mobility at a grassroots level.” Community Spring brings together people who are experiencing poverty to participate in paid fellowships where they design and build a campaign to address structural drivers of poverty in their communities. Recently, the organization ran a pilot program with four fellows who worked on designing and launching a peer support network for people who are coming out of incarceration.

Before wrapping up the conversation, Max offered some words of wisdom for those looking to start their own nonprofits. “As a lawyer you tend to be analytical, which I think for this kind of position can bleed into over-analytical, which can then lead to self-doubt” he said.

“Taking the leap into starting your own organization takes a lot of faith and it’s a lot of risk. So, you have to have the ability to kind of just push through that and not doubt yourself, but keep moving forward.”

To learn more about Max’s experience advocating for people experiencing homelessness, watch the full interview here.

Interested in kickstarting your public interest law career as a 2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow? Visit here to apply for a 2022 Design-Your-Own Fellowship before the September 20, 2021 deadline!

Taking the leap into starting your own organization takes a lot of faith and it's a lot of risk. So, you have to have the ability to kind of just push through that and not doubt yourself, but keep moving forward.

Max Tipping /
2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow