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Rodin Fellows

Pursuing social justice

Rodin Fellows find meaningful work experiences for life after law school

The Curt and Linda Rodin Center for Social Justice fellowship program supports students as they develop the skills needed to work with underserved individuals and communities through litigation, legislative and policy reform, and other forms of advocacy. The opportunity to work in a community-based setting helps students learn how to collaborate with members of the community and take a community perspective on legal problems. Here, Rodin Fellows discuss their internships and experiences that helped prepare them to pursue anti-racism and social justice work upon graduation.

 

Jacqueline Collins (JD ‘20)

For state senator Jacqueline Collins, the Curt and Linda Rodin Social Justice Fellowship provided her with the unique opportunity to integrate the legal theory of the classroom with the practical experience of “touching and transforming the lives of the least, the last, and the lost through public policy.” She says she received support and encouragement “from a superb cadre of law professors who not only equipped me with the legal tools and skills to make a difference in the lives of others, but also reinforced my passion for social justice by their unwavering commitment to fairness, equity, and service to humanity.”

Sen. Collins continues to represent her constituents in the 16th Senate District in the Illinois General Assembly. Recent major legislative accomplishments include the historic Illinois Predatory Loan Prevention Act, which caps interest rates for consumer loans at 36%, a reform that offers substantial protections to the low-income communities so often targeted by loan companies. Another reform, the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act, will help ensure that state-regulated financial institutions better meet the needs of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, including areas where there is a lack of access to banking and lending services. 

Brianna Hill (JD '20) 

Brianna Hill interned with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), working with Latinx communities in Elgin and Joliet, Illinois. She provided “know your rights” trainings and community law clinics that focused on employment, education, and political access, gaining invaluable experience in interviewing clients and learning about their challenges. “[Seeing] the lack of resources and information for this population just outside of the city limits [of Chicago] … reinforced the importance of providing services to underserved populations and areas,” she says.

Today, Hill is a staff attorney at Legal Aid Chicago in the Housing practice group. She says her Rodin fellowship experience helped expose her to housing inequities as well as the racist history of housing policy in the United States and prepared her to advocate for underserved populations.

Imani Hollie (JD '20)

As an intern at the Lawndale Christian Legal Center (LCLC) in Chicago’s North Lawndale community, Imani Hollie represented individuals ages 18 through 24 in both juvenile and adult criminal proceedings. She met with clients in their homes and neighborhoods, gaining valuable experience in client interaction and case management. “Community lawyers practice a holistic model,” Hollie says, “providing resources that are in the clients’ best interests, and referrals to resources clients will actually engage with, such as mental health centers or drug treatment.”

Today, Hollie is a Wisconsin assistant state public defender specializing in juvenile and emerging adult cases. She says her time as a Rodin Fellow solidified her passion for representing underprivileged communities.

Kate Malcolm (JD '20) 

Kate Malcolm interned in the Cabrini Green Legal Aid criminal records and criminal defense divisions. She worked at the criminal records help desks at the Daley Center in Chicago and the Cook County Sixth Municipal District Courthouse in Markham, Illinois, where clients seek help expunging or sealing criminal records to improve their chances of obtaining housing or employment. Working at the help desks developed Malcolm’s client interview skills in a fast-paced environment. She also handled post-conviction petitions for gendered violence survivors serving long sentences, which helped refine her research, writing, and interviewing skills. “As a [dual-degree] social work and law student, I was excited about the opportunity to build relationships with clients in a more therapeutic way,” she says.

After graduating, Malcolm worked at a small criminal defense law firm, primarily handling federal and national terrorism cases. After she completes training at The Basic School for the Marine Corps, she will continue on to Naval Justice School. She plans to continue working as a defense attorney     .

“The Rodin Social Justice Fellowship helped encourage me to look for ways to create more equitable outcomes regardless of the field of law,” she says. “I continue to look for those nuanced and subtle opportunities to engage in social justice work.”

Kelsey Wilson (JD '21)

Kelsey Wilson witnessed community lawyering in action while interning with Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, a group that provides legal assistance and creates community-based solutions and policy reforms to promote racial equity and economic opportunity. Wilson conducted research and met with clients and coalition members about the administration of a local affordable housing program. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson helped draft guidance for educators on school discipline in virtual and blended learning environments with the Illinois Transforming School Discipline Collaborative.

Wilson learned that community lawyering is adaptive work. It involves navigating a landscape of conflicting values held by different groups in an effort to eliminate the gap between people’s differing values in order to improve lives.

Today, Wilson plans on a career in policy and legislative affairs. “The Rodin Center helped shape my career direction by providing ample opportunities to engage in work that speaks to my values,” Wilson says. “It fueled my desire to work in multidisciplinary spaces that can tackle issues that span across sectors in tandem.”

Jordan Shead (JD '21) 

Jordan Shead interned with the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy in the Civil Legal Clinic division. Her cases involved guardianship of minors and young adults as well as landlord-tenant disputes, such as advocating for clients whose landlords unlawfully withheld security deposits or who disregarded the governor’s executive order prohibiting evictions. She also helped create training materials for pro bono attorneys and new interns regarding housing law, unemployment law, and family law issues.

“This experience really solidified that I want to have a career in civil legal aid,” Shead says. “With civil legal aid, you are providing legal services to clients from a low-income background who otherwise would not be able to afford an attorney, which furthers social justice.”       

Andy Froelich (JD '21) 

For his internship, Andy Froelich clerked at the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, a community-based legal aid organization that serves young people in Evanston, Illinois. Working in the Education Advocacy Program, Froelich advocated for special education students and students facing exclusionary discipline hearings. He represented students at Individualized Education Program meetings, prepared due process cases, defended a student at an expulsion hearing, and advocated for a more equitable education system in Evanston schools. Most importantly, Froelich learned the fundamental importance of an education that is rooted in compassion and equity.

Today, Froelich continues his work with the Moran Center through a two-year Equal Justice Works fellowship, where he will expand the Center’s education advocacy program, which provides special education and school discipline legal services to low-income families, in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.  

“Rodin gave me the freedom and flexibility to fully explore areas of law that I was interested in and engage in significant experiential opportunities,” he says.

MariaCarolina Gomez (Class of 2022) 

In summer 2021, MariaCarolina Gomez worked with the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization (LSO) of Yale Law School. LSO provides legal representation to individuals and organizations in need of legal services but unable to afford private attorneys.

As a summer fellow, Gomez worked under the guidance of Yale Law School faculty with LSO’s three criminal law clinics: Challenging Mass Incarceration Clinic, Criminal Justice Advocacy Clinic, and Samuel Jacobs Criminal Justice Clinic. She prepared for a parole hearing of an adult given a lengthy sentence as a juvenile; conducted research on COVID-19 and prison protocols; and conducted research on wrongful convictions. For one of her projects, she worked with a client on their re-entry planning, including collaborating with community organizations and social support services. 

“My experience expanded my interest in criminal law,” says Gomez. “I learned so much.”

Maggie Pfeiffer (Class of 2022) 

Before attending law school, Maggie Pfeiffer worked as a trauma ICU nurse for five years. She says she learned how to really listen and develop empathy for people. She enrolled in law school to better understand disparities in healthcare policy and the healthcare system.

In summer 2021, Pfeiffer interned at Legal Council for Health Justice in its Chicago Medical Legal Partnership for Children program, through which medical providers serve pediatric patients with significant health challenges. She worked alongside legal advocates to provide free legal services to children and families, including those related to access to health insurance, safe housing, SSI and SSDI applications or appeals, and special education. She also worked on initiatives that advocated for legal changes at the community, state, and national levels. 

Pfeiffer calls her internship “an amazing opportunity for me to see how health care and the law intersect and how to apply my medical experience to my role as a legal advocate.”

Cruz Rodriguez (Class of 2022) 

In summer 2021, Cruz Rodriguez interned with the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR). He supported attorneys on cases involving direct representation of primarily Central American unaccompanied children detained in Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters in South Texas. He also observed Immigration Court proceedings and developed direct representation expertise through meeting with clients.

“This internship will help me continue learning about immigration law and how, as a future attorney, I can provide meaningful pro bono legal services,” Rodriguez says.
–Megan Kirby and Kristi Turnbaugh


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