Last night at KPMG’s Park Avenue office, public interest attorneys and supporters gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of nonprofit organization Equal Justice Works. With its 1,165th fellow set to be placed next month, Equal Justice Works is a leader in public service, providing hundreds of attorneys and law students with public interest fellowships every year.
With a spread of delicious food and drink and a room buzzing with public interest advocates, the event was the perfect tribute to an organization that dedicates so much to others. The evening featured a variety of speakers including the Honorable Sven Erik Holmes of KPMG; Equal Justice Works’ David Stern; previous Equal Justice Works fellow and founder of the nonprofit Youth Represent, Laurie Parise; and current Equal Justice Works fellow (serving Youth Represent) Michael Pope. But the show stopper of the event was—without a doubt—a young client of Youth Represent who gave a touching and emotional account of how Youth Represent has changed his life. The organization supported the young man in a variety of matters including providing legal defense, ensuring he could remain in his family’s NYCHA-based housing, helping him secure a job despite his prior conviction and supporting him in his pursuit of higher education. “Youth represent advocated for me to the fullest,” he said.
Youth Represent provides legal assistance to young people under age 24, who have become involved in the criminal justice or juvenile justice systems. The organization takes a holistic approach in helping youth move past criminal problems and successfully secure housing, employment and educational opportunities. As founder Laurie Parise put it last night, “In short, we’re a law firm for young people.” And as Youth Represent’s young client indicated, the organization is a life-changer—his story illustrates the human impact of Equal Justice Works and its participating public interest organizations.
This impact is possible because of attorneys like Michael Pope who dedicate their time and careers to serving those most in need. But as Pope—whose fellowship is funded by the Morrison & Foerster Foundation—pointed out, the possibility stems from places like Equal Justice Works that provide the necessary support for this great work. In introducing Equal Justice Works’ executive director David Stern, Pope stated, “you know you’re lucky when you don’t have to look that far for inspiration.”
I’m sure most would agree that with his 19 years of dedication to Equal Justice Works and lifelong commitment to public interest work, David Stern is an inspiration. Congratulations to Mr. Stern and Equal Justice Works for this milestone.
Equal Justice Works
Morrison & Foerster Foundation
Leading the Legal World Toward Public Interest: Equal Justice Works Celebrates 25 Years
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