Determined to attend the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair in Washington D.C., 14 Miami Law students, accompanied by faculty members and Dean Patricia D. White, braved the potential elements in late October just three days before Hurricane Sandy was set to make landfall on the east coast.
Arriving in the nation's capital to cool temperatures and clear skies, the group went straight to the conference, one of the largest public interest career fairs in the country. The conference brings together students and public interest employers from across the country in one place for job opportunities, networking and leadership training.
The students had the opportunity for both formal and informal interviews with employers. They brought their résumés and cover letters to be reviewed by experienced professionals, took part in conference workshop sessions focused on issues relevant to law students, and networked with like-minded students, graduates, law school professionals, and practitioners. And, after two days, everyone got home safe and sound.
During the group's time in Washington, Mindy Reinstein, JD '08, a former HOPE Fellow, hosted a reception atop the Newseum, with a view of the Capitol. More than 75 graduates convened to celebrate public interest at Miami Law. Devang Desai, President of the Alumni Association, and Dean White welcomed the crowd of students and graduates for the rooftop reception. A leading national force in public interest advocacy, Miami Law had much to celebrate in Washington.
"It was fulfilling to see years of graduates together, broadening their networks and supporting our students seeking opportunities in Washington D.C.," said Marni B. Lennon, Assistant Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono and Director of the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center. "Our students had over 20 interviews at the EJW conference and employers remarked how exemplary our students are. This was a phenomenal celebration of the achievements of our school and our students in public interest. Our graduates occupy leading positions in federal and public sector agencies across Washington D.C. It has become our second home and it was wonderful to link graduates and students together."
Founded by law students in 1986, Equal Justice Works is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice. To achieve this, they offer a continuum of opportunities for law students and lawyers that provide the training and skills that enable them to provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes. To help foster public interest values in students, EJW collaborates with law schools to expand public interest programming on law school campuses.
The Equal Justice Works Fellowships programs fund hundreds of public interest attorneys each year to close the justice gap on issues such as foreclosure, community economic development, immigration, civil rights, homelessness, access to healthcare, and domestic violence. These Fellows have a lasting impact well beyond their fellowship. More than 80 percent of fellows continue doing public interest work after their fellowship ends.
In the face of staggering educational debt loads, Equal Justice Works has taken a leadership role in advocating for loan repayment assistance programs and federal legislation that enable graduates to pay back their loans as a percentage of income and to attain loan forgiveness after 10 years of public service. Through outreach and counseling, as well as an online resource center, the organization educates thousands of law students and law school advisors about programs that enable lawyers to take public interest jobs without regard to their educational debt. "We believe that the poorest and most vulnerable among us," the group's mission statement says, "deserve the same access to justice and quality legal representation as more fortunate citizens."