The Justice Center is very proud of its student advisory board graduates and the contributions they are making serving the public good. Below we highlight a few of our graduates’ current work, law school activities, and their advice for law students (and future law students) who hope to make a career in public service.
Jessica Cassidy, '09
Jessica is an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Texas Advocacy Project in Austin, funded in part by Texas Access to Justice Foundation. A first generation college graduate from Corpus Christi, she received a Master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs as well as her J.D. In law school, Jessica participated in the Capital Punishment Clinic, the Criminal Defense Clinic, and the Domestic Violence Clinic, as well as the Public Interest Law Association (PILA), Texas Law Fellowships (TLF), Concerned Students for Loan Repayment Assistance (LRAP), and the President’s Student Advisory Council. She also interned with the Texas Advocacy Project and the ACLU of Texas. Jessica spent her summers working in Austin at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TLRA) and the ACLU of Texas.
- "Aggressively seek out opportunities to work for the underserved. The clinics, public service opportunities, and non-profit jobs I had throughout school reminded me of why I was here and what I came to do. Each shaped the way I view vulnerability and need. Each exposed me to the way that legal systems structure resources towards power, and away from the disenfranchised. And each inspired me to do more."
Parisa Fatehi, '07
Having completed a two-year clerkship with the Hon. Vanessa D. Gilmore, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, Parisa is now an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Public Advocates, Inc. in San Francisco. At Public Advocates, she plans to utilize California's climate change laws to increase affordable housing for low-income workers in the Bay Area. Parisa, a native of Iran, grew up in Austin. Prior to law school, Parisa worked at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. While at UT Law, Parisa completed a Master's degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and participated in the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic and the Immigration Clinic. She was also active in the American Constitution Society, Middle Eastern Law Students’ Association, and the successful effort to establish an LRAP at UT Law. She spent her summers working at the National Employment Law Project in New York City and the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin.
- "I would encourage all law students to take advantage of the rich clinical opportunities at UT Law. The clients will teach you, inspire you, and remind you exactly why you went to law school; and the professors are top-rate attorneys who will become lifelong mentors."
Whitney Hill, '09
Whitney is currently working at the Juvenile Rights Project in Portland, Oregon, funded by the UT Law Justice Corps George M. Fleming Fellowship in Health Law. Originally from California’s Bay Area, Whitney worked as a legal assistant, with a youth wilderness program, and at a residential treatment facility for teens prior to coming to law school. In law school, Whitney spent her summers at TRLA’s Family Law Department in Austin, funded by Equal Justice America, and the Juvenile Rights Project in Portland. During the school year, she interned at Advocacy, Inc., and participated in the Environmental Law Clinic, the Children’s Rights Clinic, the Juvenile Justice Clinic, Concerned Students for LRAP, Women’s Law Caucus, Street Law, and TLF. She also worked at Slack & Davis LLP in Austin, and volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Shirley Horng, '07
Shirley, from Houston, is currently working at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia as a housing attorney representing low-income tenants in eviction cases and administrative hearings. She also advocates for policy changes before the D.C. Council and the D.C. Housing Authority and conducts outreach in the communities. While in law school, Shirley participated in the Housing Law Clinic and the Criminal Defense Clinic, and interned at the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin. She spent her summers working at the Public Defenders Service for the District of Columbia, and TRLA in Eagle Pass, Texas.
- "Follow up, follow up, follow up. Be persistent with applications to individual positions and be patient with the general public interest job search. Don't give up!"
Brett Kaufman, '09
Brett is currently clerking for Justice Asher Grunis of the Israeli Supreme Court. He will then work with Gisha, an NGO representing Palestinians’ freedom of movement in Israeli and international courts, and clerk for the Hon. Robert D. Sack of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. From Chicago, Brett taught English in Madrid and worked in California’s Bay Area as a paralegal at a non-profit disability rights law firm before coming to law school. In law school, Brett participated in American Constitution Society, the Supreme Court Clinic, the National Security Clinic, Texas Law Review, and the Rapoport Center. He spent his summers working at the Inter-American Court for Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica, and the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta.
- "If you want to make a career for yourself in public interest law, you can—there is more to life than your loans."
Kathrine Russell, '08
Kathrine, from San Antonio, worked as an associate at Latham & Watkins in New York before becoming a children’s immigration attorney with South Texas ProBAR in Harlingen. In law school, Kathrine participated in TLF, PILA, the Texas International Law Journal, the Housing Law Clinic, Telephone Access to Justice at TRLA, and the Student Hurricane Network. She spent her summers working at Akin Gump in San Antonio, Texas C-BAR in Austin, and Latham & Watkins in New York.
Meghan Shapiro, '09
Meghan, from Alexandria, Virginia, is currently clerking for the Hon. Leonie Brinkema, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia. In law school, Meghan participated in the Capital Punishment Clinic and the Supreme Court Clinic. She volunteered for the Capital Punishment Center, worked as a research assistant to Professor Jordan Steiker, and published an article in the American Journal of Criminal Law, “An Overdose of Dangerousness: How Future Dangerousness Catches the Least Culpable Capital Defendants and Undermines the Rationale for the Executions it Supports.” She spent her summers working at the Texas Defender Service in Houston, the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama in Montgomery, the Philadelphia Capital Habeas Unit, and the Federal Capital Resource Counsel’s office in Richmond, Virginia.
- "Do not be tricked into thinking you ‘need’ to work in a firm, in the summer or after graduation, for experiential or financial reasons. Publicly funded offices and not-for-profits offer rich experiences and high quality training. And now, the College Cost Reduction Act makes it possible for all law students, even out-of-state students, to pursue a public interest career without exception."
Lisa Snead, '09
Lisa is currently a Skadden Fellow with Advocacy, Inc. in Austin, working with domestic violence victims with disabilities. In law school, Lisa participated in the Student Hurricane Network, the Domestic Violence Survivor Support Network, the Review of Litigation, the Domestic Violence Clinic, and worked as a Sunday School teacher for the Austin Stone Community Church and with homeless kids at Church Under the Bridge. She also worked as a research assistant for Professor Sarah Buel, and as a LexisNexis student representative. She spent her summers working with the Texas Advocacy Project in Austin and Court Appointed Special Advocates, in Newport News, Virginia.
"I think many students plan on going into public interest law and then they get to law school and think that it's just going to be too hard. Too hard to get a job, too hard to pay off loans, just too hard in this economy. I would encourage students interested in public interest work to stick it out. There are many resources, especially the WWJC and Nicole Clark in CSO, who are able and willing to point students to new resources and new programs. If you're passionate about public interest work, don't let fear that you can't 'make it' keep you from pursuing justice."
"It's also incredibly important to cultivate relationships with professors and mentors early. I knew I wanted to do domestic violence law so as a 1L, I volunteered to do research for a professor at UT whose specialty was domestic violence. That volunteer work turned into a research assistant job, which led to my paper being published, which led to excellent recommendations, and a job. I wouldn't have my fellowship and I wouldn't have the contacts and opportunities I have now if I hadn't been persistent, introduced myself as a 1L, and shown I was serious and interested in domestic violence law. No matter what area of law you are interested in, make your own opportunities. The staff at UT is excellent but the student body is huge--take the initiative to cultivate relationships and make yourself known."
John Tustin, '06
John clerked for a federal magistrate judge in Dallas and is currently an Honors Program attorney in the Environmental and National Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Originally from Lubbock, John served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and as a legislative assistant in the U.S. Congress before attending law school. During law school, he participated in Concerned Students for LRAP, the Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal, and the Immigration Clinic. He spent his summers working at the Office of the Legal Advisor at the Ministry of Environment in Brasilia, Brazil, and the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C. He studied abroad in Brazil and interned at Imazon, a Brazilian environmental NGO.
- "I encourage current law students to seek out the many professors, programs, and clinics at UT Law that support public interest law."
Amber VanSchuyver, '08
Amber, from Arkansas City, Kansas, is an Equal Justice Works Fellow at TRLA in South Texas. She works to economically empower victims of domestic violence. During law school, she participated in the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic, the Immigration Clinic, and the Access to Justice Internship; was actively involved in PILA, the Human Rights Law Society and Concerned Students for LRAP; and served as managing editor of the Texas Journal on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and as a student representative on the Dean’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program committee. She spent her summers working at TRLA in Edinburg, Texas and Equal Rights Advocates in San Francisco.
- "The best advice I can give for students interested in public interest is to get very involved in the public interest community by taking clinics, volunteering at local non-profits, and being active in student groups with similar interests."
Elizabeth Wagoner, '07
Elizabeth, a native of Dallas, is an employment attorney at Make the Road New York, a nonprofit, membership-based community center in Queens, New York. She was awarded a UT Law Faculty Fellowship in 2007 to develop Make the Road’s Immigrant Women's Workplace Justice Project, which provides representation to immigrant women in wage-and-hour and sexual harassment litigation against abusive employers. In law school she participated in the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic and the Immigration Clinic, and was active in the National Lawyers’ Guild, the Justice Center, PILA, and the successful effort to bring an LRAP to UT Law. She spent her summers in New York City interning at Make the Road and at UNITE HERE’s International office as a Peggy Browning Fellow, and spent a visiting semester at CUNY School of Law in Queens, New York during the fall of her 3L year.
- "Often, being a public interest lawyer means being a litigator. I didn't know that at first. If you're interested in employment, immigration, housing, civil rights, domestic violence, and other legal issues that affect low-income people, you are going to find yourself representing people in court pretty soon after you graduate. To prepare yourself to fake it until you know what you're doing, I recommend taking lots of fundamental 'bar' classes: for example, evidence, conflicts, state civil procedure, criminal procedure, corporations, and bankruptcy (really!). Those sound boring, but if you're taking them because you want to be the best possible advocate for low-income people they become relevant and fun. I also wish I'd done mock trial. It helps to practice oral arguments, direct/cross, and introducing documents into evidence before you're in court for the first time."
Spencer Wilson, '09
Spencer is currently working for Bay Area Legal Aid in Richmond, California, funded with a UT Law Justice Corps Fellowship. From Portland, Oregon, Spencer worked as a Legislative Assistant to Congressman Earl Blumenauer before coming to law school. In law school Spencer participated in the Texas Journal of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, the Criminal Defense Clinic, and the Capital Punishment Clinic. He also worked at the Texas Watch Foundation, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, during his 2L and 3L years. He spent his summers working for TRLA in Austin and Bay Area Legal Aid.
- "I encourage students to take advantage of the resources UT has to offer for public interest and to make an effort to get to know the faculty and students who share similar interests. Also, try not to be dissuaded by the financial and logistical challenges in obtaining public interest work. The career path may not be as clear cut as a path to a traditional legal career, but ultimately it is much more rewarding."