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Update on Host Organization Supporting Payments

The following letter was sent to 2021 Fellows in response to feedback regarding host organization supporting payments. 

Dear Fellows,

Thank you for the feedback and conversation we have had to date. I acknowledge your dissatisfaction that we cannot accommodate your request to give each of you or your host organizations an additional $7,000.

As you know, Equal Justice Works is devoted to creating opportunities for lawyers to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service. We are always striving to do better. We don’t always get it right, but we are a learning organization that welcomes feedback and adapts when something can be improved, while also being thoughtful and deliberate about relationships, sustainability, fairness, and fiscal constraints in our community.

We are sympathetic to the very real challenges and concerns you have about public interest lawyer salaries. We appreciate your highlighting the significant disparity between the support we are providing to host organizations for first- and second- year Fellows beginning in September. You should know, however, that despite the $7,000 increase in supporting payments for the host organizations of the class of 2022, the median Fellow salary and distribution is very similar to what it was for the class of 2021.

Our biggest learning from our exchange is that five years is too long between adjusting host organization supporting payments, which they use to fund your salaries. Here is how we will move forward differently:

  • Beginning with the class of 2022, we will adjust our supporting payment to host organizations with each Fellowship class year. We will seek the advice of host organizations, sponsors, and our Fellowship alumni as we determine that increase.
  • We will continue to elevate public consciousness about the financial burdens and challenges public interest lawyers face and drive greater awareness of your contributions that clearly reflect the value of your work.

As always, we are grateful for your commitment to the work you do. We hope you will continue to make a positive impact for individuals, families, and communities across our country.

Thank you,
David Stern
Equal Justice Works Executive Director

Visit here for FAQS about host organization supporting payments.

Over the weekend, yet again we bore witness to the racist violence of our country. This horrific hate crime that resulted in the death of ten people is another painful reminder of just how much work is still needed to achieve racial justice in our country.

The actions we saw have brought new images of racism and injustice that Black communities continue to face. My thoughts are with the victims and their grieving families, as well as with our staff, Fellows, Alums, supporters, and host organizations in the Buffalo area.

As an organization committed to fulfilling our nation’s promise of equal justice for all, we have a strong obligation to stand up against racist violence. Black communities deserve better, they deserve justice. As always, I’m grateful to all our Fellows for fighting to enact meaningful change.

In solidarity,
David Stern
Equal Justice Works Executive Director

After 30 years of service, Equal Justice Works Executive Director David Stern will be retiring from the organization. With his pending departure, we are seeking a new executive director to build on David’s immeasurable impact, creating opportunities for law students and lawyers to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service.

Equal Justice Works is working with Russell Reynolds Associates to conduct a search for the next executive director of the organization. The next executive director will have the exciting opportunity to transform and shape Equal Justice Works for the next era of impact. We are seeking someone who can connect head and heart, express passion for the Equal Justice Works mission, and inspire others.  

View the full position description here.

Nomination and Application Process

Inquiries, nominations, and applications are invited. Interested candidates should submit, confidentially, a résumé and letter of interest to [email protected]   

Thank you for sharing this announcement with your networks and contacts. 

Headshot of David Stern
Photo of David Stern

Equal Justice Works is proud to announce that Equal Justice Works Executive Director David Stern is being awarded the 2022 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award by the Pro Bono Institute (PBI).

“It’s only fitting that PBI honor David in this, his year of retirement,” said Eve Runyon, PBI President and CEO. “We are thrilled to celebrate his many contributions to public interest law and a truly illustrious career.”

Each year, PBI presents the Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award to an individual or organization for their exceptional commitment to pro bono legal services. David will be recognized this evening at the PBI Annual Conference held in Washington, D.C.

It’s only fitting that PBI honor David in this, his year of retirement. We are thrilled to celebrate his many contributions to public interest law and a truly illustrious career.

Eve Runyon /
President, CEO
Pro bono Institute

“Throughout my career, I’ve always been passionate about equal justice and creating opportunities for law students and lawyers to make an impact in our communities, and our country,” said David. “Receiving this award from the Pro Bono Institute is deeply humbling because of our shared commitment and enthusiasm for expanding access to justice for people most in need.”

In 1992, David joined Equal Justice Works, then known as the National Association for Public Interest Law (NAPIL), to launch its postgraduate fellowship program. In 1995, he was promoted to executive director.

During his time at Equal Justice Works, David has built an extraordinary community of lawyers from all corners of the profession. Under his leadership, Equal Justice Works has facilitated more than 2,300 public interest fellowships, with 85% of Fellows continuing to serve the public following their Fellowship. In addition, Equal Justice Works is a national expert on student debt relief and partners with more than 90% of ABA-accredited law schools to promote public interest law opportunities across the country.

Receiving this award from the Pro Bono Institute is deeply humbling because of our shared commitment and enthusiasm for expanding access to justice for people most in need.

David Stern /
Executive Director
Equal Justice Works

David has been recognized as a “Champion of Change” by the White House, as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” by The National Law Journal, and as one of the “Greatest Washington Lawyers in the Past 30 Years” by The Legal Times. In 2006, he was honored by the Mississippi Center for Justice for bringing national attention to the legal needs of survivors of Hurricane Katrina and for creating Equal Justice Works’ Katrina Initiative, which deployed lawyers to the Gulf Coast region to help thousands of people left without homes, jobs, or social services.

David currently serves on the Advisory Committee for Voices for Civil Justice, a nonpartisan communications hub advancing fairness in America’s legal system. He is also a member of the Legal Services Corporation’s Leaders Council, which is dedicated to raising public awareness of the crisis in civil legal aid nationwide.

Visit here to learn more about David’s commitment to public service and here to learn more about the Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award.

The following letter was sent from David Stern, Equal Justice Works Executive Director, to the Equal Justice Community in response to the Department of Education’s recent announcement to overhaul the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. 

Dear Equal Justice Works Community,  

Yesterday was a historic day for our public service professionals, including public interest lawyers, relying on educational debt relief through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Educational debt is an obstacle that prevents many graduates from taking relatively low-paying public service jobs and staying in them, and Equal Justice Works has been working to address this issue since this organization was founded 35 years ago. The promise of PSLF is that a borrower can earn forgiveness following 10 years of full-time public service and on time loan payments. PSLF ensures that our nation can attract and retain qualified and passionate professionals in public health, public education, and public safety jobs that are critical to the wellbeing of our communities and country.

At last, we are seeing real and positive change from our advocacy and are thrilled that the Department of Education announced major changes to PSLF both to improve the program going forward and address the problems of the past.

The Department of Education announced that it will offer a time-limited waiver so that student borrowers can count payments from all federal loan programs or repayment plans toward forgiveness. This includes loan types and payment plans that were not previously eligible. The department promised to also pursue opportunities to automate PSLF eligibility, give borrowers a way to get errors corrected, and make it easier for members of the military to get credit toward forgiveness while they serve. These changes will be paired with an expanded communications campaign to ensure affected borrowers learn about these opportunities and encourage them to apply.

Up until this point, the Department of Education has rejected 98% of applicants for forgiveness.  Teachers, nurses, social workers, public service lawyers, doctors, and many others have relied on this program and then told that they did not have the right loans or the amounts paid were not exactly right (sometimes off by a penny), and many would have to start all over again. That is why this news is a huge victory for public service workers everywhere.

For those of you in the law school community, I urge you to share this news with your current law students, recent graduates, and alumni to ensure that those who might be eligible for this waiver enroll by October 31, 2022.

Read the Department of Education’s press release about the PSLF program overhaul here

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s order extending the federal eviction moratorium. The ban was a two-month order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that covered areas of the country experiencing high levels of community transmission of COVID-19.

“This decision to allow evictions to resume across the country hurts millions of people who are now at risk of eviction amid the continued spread of COVID-19,” said David Stern, executive director at Equal Justice Works. “With states and local governments struggling to distribute tens of millions of dollars in federal rental assistance to those who are behind on rent and facing a loss of their homes, it’s only a matter of time until we see a wave of evictions. I’m grateful we have a program dedicated to placing lawyers and community organizers across the state of Virginia, where they are helping to ensure greater access to legal services for residents experiencing housing instability.”

Equal Justice Works will continue its efforts to mobilize passionate public service leaders to address housing instability at the individual, community, and systemic levels, and work to create equal access to justice for tenants as mass evictions loom.

Headshot of David Stern
Photo of David Stern

David Stern to retire from Equal Justice Works, effective once a new executive director is in place

Kate Fritz, Vice Chair of the Equal Justice Works Board of Directors, to lead the Board of Directors’ Executive Director Search Committee

Equal Justice Works announced today that David Stern has decided to step down from his role as the organization’s executive director, effective upon the appointment and onboarding of his successor. Kate Fritz, Vice Chair of the Equal Justice Works Board of Directors, will chair the Board’s Executive Director Search Committee, which will conduct a national search for the next executive director of the organization.

“In his 30 years of service to this organization, David has had an immeasurable impact, enabling countless law students and lawyers to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service,” said Board Chair Ivan Fong. “His leadership has been truly transformative, and I am so grateful to have had the privilege of serving as Board Chair during David’s final years as Executive Director. Although I will be sad to see him depart the organization, David and the Board have long been committed to a successful transition plan, and we have full confidence in the strength of the Equal Justice Works Board of Directors, leadership team, staff, Fellows, and community.”

Under David’s leadership, Equal Justice Works’ budget grew from less than $2 million to more than $21 million, and from seven Fellows in 1993 to more than 200 Fellows in the field today. Significantly, 85% of the more than 2,500 Equal Justice Works alumni remain in public service.

David joined Equal Justice Works, then known as the National Association for Public Interest Law (NAPIL), in 1992 to establish a postgraduate fellowship program; in 1995, he was promoted to executive director. Supported by David’s leadership, Equal Justice Works has evolved into the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law. David will continue to serve as Executive Director at Equal Justice Works until a new executive director has been identified and is in place.

“I am energized and inspired by the law students and Fellows who have served over the past 30 years, and I have watched with such pride and gratitude as they emerged as passionate public service leaders,” said David. “They give me incredible hope for the future and fuel my own passion for this organization and its mission. I have had the good fortune to work with a great staff and Board of Directors who helped Equal Justice Works become the amazing organization it is today, with so much potential for its future. The organization is well positioned to welcome a new executive director.”

See David Stern’s full bio here.

In his 30 years of service to this organization, David has had an immeasurable impact, enabling countless law students and lawyers to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service.

Ivan Fong /
Equal Justice Works Board Chair

77 public interest lawyers will spend the next two years helping to increase access to justice for underserved communities across the United States.

The 2021 class of Fellows received sponsorship from over 75 law firms, corporations, private foundations, and individual donors.

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 12, 2021—Equal Justice Works, the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law, today named its 2021 class of Equal Justice Works Fellows. Each of the 77 law school graduates, in collaboration with a legal services organization, has designed a two-year Equal Justice Works Fellowship project to address the unmet legal needs of the community where they will serve.

“We take great pride in launching the careers of passionate public service leaders through an Equal Justice Works Fellowship,” said David Stern, executive director at Equal Justice Works. “We look forward to supporting our new Fellows in bringing critical legal services to communities still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, and in their work responding to ongoing racial injustice throughout our country.”

Each year, Equal Justice Works selects a class of public interest lawyers who have designed one-of-a-kind projects in partnership with legal services organizations. These projects are funded by law firms, corporations, private foundations, and individual supporters.

Selected from 466 applications, the 2021 class of Equal Justice Works Fellows includes graduates from 47 law schools who will work at 70 legal services organizations across 20 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Among this year’s sponsors are 26 leading law firms recognized in the Am Law 200 and 22 Fortune 500 corporations.

Equal Justice Works Fellows in the 2021 class have created projects to address a wide range of legal issues. Examples of these projects include:

  • Jina Kim (she/her/hers), a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, will be hosted by Communities for a Better Environment, where she will advocate with low-income residents of color in East Oakland, California for environmental justice and community resilience. Jina’s Fellowship is sponsored by The Clorox Company.
  • Carlos Ramos-Hernandez (he/him/his) will empower citizens to proactively demand public accountability by strengthening Puerto Rico’s constitutional right to access government information and promoting transparency and participatory democracy. Carlos is the first University of Puerto Rico School of Law graduate to be awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship. He will be hosted by the Center for Investigative Journalism and his project is sponsored by an anonymous supporter.
  • Michelle Mapp (she/her/hers), a graduate of Charleston School of Law, will be hosted by the ACLU of South Carolina, where she will help to enact Tenant Right to Counsel legislation in South Carolina to prevent the eviction and displacement of low-income and African American households. Michelle’s Fellowship is sponsored by the Alston & Bird Racial Justice Fund.
  • Tyahija Martin (they/them/theirs) will be hosted by Girls for Gender Equity, where they will work to eradicate institutionalized barriers that constrict freedom, full expression, and rights of school-age Black and Brown girls, and trans and gender-nonconforming/nonbinary youth. Tyahija, a graduate of Howard University School of Law, is cosponsored by Spotify and Mayer Brown LLP.

Over the past three decades, Equal Justice Works has awarded more than 2,000 Fellowships to lawyers who are committed to ensuring equal access to justice for underserved communities. Our Fellowship programs are designed to effect change in communities and throughout our country by mobilizing Fellows to work on key issue areas such as disaster resilience, housing equality, and crime victims’ rights, as well as through the opportunity for a Fellow to work with a legal services organization to design and implement a unique project in response to a specific or emerging need.  On average, 85% of Equal Justice Works Fellows remain in public service positions, continuing to help fulfill our nation’s promise of equal justice for all.

Click here for a full list of the 2021 Equal Justice Works Fellows, host organizations, and sponsors.

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About Equal Justice Works
Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for lawyers to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service. As the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law, Equal Justice Works brings together an extensive network of law students, lawyers, nonprofit legal aid organizations, and supporters to promote public service and inspire a lifelong commitment to equal justice.

Contact
Heena Patel
Marketing and Communications Director
Email: [email protected]

We look forward to supporting our new Fellows in bringing critical legal services to communities still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, and in their work responding to ongoing racial injustice throughout our country.

David Stern /
Equal Justice Works Executive Director

The following letter was sent from David Stern, Equal Justice Works Executive Director, to staff in response to the rise in anti-Asian attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Colleagues –

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in anti-Asian attacks. Hatred, discrimination, and racist violence are not new to the American experience but have no place in the promise of all that America can and should be. The recent attacks in Atlanta resulted in nine shot, eight fatally, six of whom are women of Asian descent.  

My thoughts are with the victims and their families, as well as with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. I am also thinking about our Fellows, Alums, supporters, and host organizations in the Atlanta area. As always, I am grateful for our Fellows whose commitment to service and passion help lift up our ideal of equal justice for all. The work of our community gives me hope in distressing times like these.   

In solidarity,
David Stern
Equal Justice Works Executive Director

The following letter was sent from David Stern, Equal Justice Works Executive Director, to staff in response to yesterday’s hate-filled siege on the U.S. Capitol.

Colleagues –

Yesterday’s hate-filled violent siege on the Capitol was scary and upsetting, especially considering it was the president and certain members of Congress who incited the mob. As our Board Chair, Ivan Fong, said, “A sad, disappointing and candidly disgraceful day for us as a nation that professes to be a representative democracy governed by the rule of law.”

The actions we saw yesterday were designed to intimidate, silence, and undermine our democracy. These actions are directly inconsistent with our core organizational values: equal access to justice, opportunity, service, community, and passion. The behavior we witnessed was particularly frightening because we are based in Washington, D.C., and many of you and our Fellows live in the local area. My thoughts are with all of you, our Fellows, and our community, as we continue to navigate this upsetting time.

It was also deeply troubling to see the contrast with how these violent rioters were treated in comparison to the peaceful protestors in support of Black Lives Matter, who were subjected to tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons. I believe yesterday’s events would have resulted in more violent reactions from the police had the rioters been Black.

We believe in our nation’s promise of equal justice for all, and we condemn anti-democratic and violent acts that seek to block the American ideal of a peaceful transition of power.

I hope you all stay safe and are taking care of your emotional well-being in these very troubling days.

David Stern
Equal Justice Works Executive Director