NYLAG’s New Class of Fellows Arrives
With fall comes the arrival at NYLAG of 19 young lawyers intent on closing the justice gap by implementing innovative and collaborative law projects that they themselves designed. They join NYLAG thanks to a proliferation of public interest fellowships established by law schools and social justice organizations, sponsored by private law firms and foundations.
Fellowships enable service providers to reach more people who otherwise would not be able to receive legal counsel, and provide recent law school graduates with an opportunity to grow as lawyers and deepen their commitment to public interest work.
“It is a pleasure to welcome this year’s fellows – who are as usual an amazing group of young lawyers. Their projects are timely and innovative, and as diverse as NYLAG itself,” said Yisroel Schulman, NYLAG’s President and Attorney-in-Charge. “Many are former NYLAG interns returning to make a new contribution and hone their growing legal skills. NYLAG and our clients will be the beneficiaries of their creativity, passion and commitment.”
Becoming a fellow
The fellowship application process is rigorous and highly selective. Recent applicants must identify unmet needs among a vulnerable population and, in partnership with a legal services organization, develop a detailed project plan that includes measurable goals, a timeline, and the additional resources (such as the involvement of community groups or the support of pro bono attorneys) necessary to achieve success. Fellowships are generally for a one- or two-year period.
Among the new class of NYLAG fellows are graduates from some of the country’s most prestigious law schools. They will be assisting a number of particularly vulnerable populations, including elderly or disabled people being denied health benefits, immigrant youths escaping violence, older immigrants unfairly saddled with student loan debt, veterans struggling with mental illnesses, and LGBTQ people and families of color facing housing discrimination.
Meet the fellows
Here is a look at a few of the new fellows and their projects:
Eugene Chen, Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by the Paul Rapoport Foundation, will provide legal advocacy and education to low-income LGBTQ people from communities of color who are at risk of eviction, or who have been denied housing because of discrimination. Chen, a graduate of CUNY Law, plans to focus his work on clients who are aging, transgender or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Chen’s own background powerfully informs his work: “Growing up gay in Manhattan’s Chinatown in the 1980’s I sometimes forgot I lived in New York City – structural racism in America along with strong cultural traditions left few places where lesbian, gay and transgender Asian-Americans could be themselves. This project emerged from my experiences growing up under economic and social conditions that are common to many LGBT people from low-income communities of color.”
Yale Law School graduate Jason Glick has been awarded a Skadden Fellowship to create a project that will expand NYLAG’s ability to provide systemic relief from student loan debts for former students of unscrupulous for-profit schools. Glick plans to focus the majority of his time on direct representation of clients and use his Spanish and Mandarin skills to conduct community outreach and build awareness among immigrants of the risks of attending certain for-profit schools. Glick attributes his commitment to public interest to his experience as a law student representing clients in a civil rights case arising out of immigration raids.
“Throughout the case, the plaintiffs demonstrated the power of a marginalized but committed group to obtain redress for injustice, and to effect policy changes that reverberated outside their individual struggles,” said Glick. “I carry with me a sense of inspiration from those clients and their example of how a community can resist injustice.”
Keith Hoffmann’s father was a Vietnam veteran and a psychiatrist who treated veterans for PTSD and other mental trauma. “I grew up hearing stories of dad’s veteran patients. He always emphasized the long-lasting effects of war on society. In 2001, my father died of cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Later, as a result of my dad’s sacrifice, the VA awarded me survivor’s benefits, which I used to pay for college and law school.”
Hoffmann, an Equal Justice Fellow and graduate of Fordham Law, will work in Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) hospitals to help qualified veterans obtain VA benefits and other legal services. His project, the first attorney-staffed, hospital-based program to assist veterans with VA benefits claims, will fill a huge void for seriously disabled veterans disadvantaged by poverty and the lack of legal assistance. Approximately 220,000 veterans live in New York City, and about a quarter of them receive their care in VA medical centers. NYC veterans face one of the longest VA benefits waits in the nation, while those whose claims are erroneously denied must often wait over three years for justice.
Harvard Law graduate Lindsey Kaley first became interested in working with immigrants in 2007 while studying abroad in Nicaragua, where she was struck by how many people she met whose friends and relatives had fled to the US to escape economic restrictions and political repression. Once she returned, she began volunteering with various immigrant services organizations, where she saw firsthand the power and privileges citizenship bestows.
“Through my involvement in the community I became committed to the fight for immigration reform. I came to law school to learn how to utilize the law as a tool in that struggle, particularly to address the needs of undocumented immigrants, who have the least social and legal protection.”
As a Harvard Public Service Venture Fund Fellow, Kaley will screen young immigrants who may be eligible for permanent forms of legal status, such as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). The qualifications for SIJS are stringent, as applicants must demonstrate that they were abused, neglected, or abandoned by at least one of their parents. These cases are extremely time-consuming and complex, as they require representation in both family and immigration court. For that reason Kaley will be working jointly with NYLAG’s Family & Matrimonial Law and Immigrant Protection attorneys to get their expert guidance and support.
As a social worker for five years, Peter Travitsky helped poor and low-income seniors secure the services and support that would enable them to maintain economic independence and remain in their own homes. That experience and his time as a home attendant for an 80-year-old man with dementia motivated him to become a lawyer and advocate for a better quality of life for all seniors. In May 2014 he graduated from Brooklyn Law School, and has now been awarded a Borchard Fellowship to focus on some of New York’s most vulnerable healthcare consumers: chronically ill seniors and people with disabilities who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. His project comes at a pivotal time, as New York reshapes its financing and delivery of long-term care services in response to the Affordable Care Act.
“NYLAG’s expertise in traversing the long-term care system is critical to the well-being of the very people I went to law school to serve—an often fragile population that is unable to advocate for itself,” said Travitsky. “With the State’s recent experiments in privatizing long-term care, we have a brief window of opportunity to set the ground rules for years to come.”
Complete list of NYLAG’s new fellows
Eugene Chen, Equal Justice Works Fellow, LGBTQ Housing Law
Wendy Cheng, NYU Law Women’s Rights Fellow, Matrimonial & Family Law
Janice Chua, Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow, Immigrant Protection
Eliyahu Freedman, Avodah Fellow, General Legal Services
Sara Friedman, Brooklyn Law School Fellow, Matrimonial & Family Law
Jason Glick, Skadden Fellow, Special Litigation
Danielle Greene, Avodah Fellow, Matrimonial & Family Law
Keith Hoffmann, Equal Justice Works Fellow, Legal Health
Alexander Hu, Brooklyn Law School Fellow, Immigrant Protection
Lindsey Kaley, Harvard Public Service Venture Fellow, Immigrant Protection/Matrimonial & Family Law
Joey Morris, Avodah Fellow, Immigrant Protection
Wilson Osario, Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow, Matrimonial & Family Law
Lauren Price, Brooklyn Law School Fellow, Special Litigation
Carolyn Sharzer, Avodah Fellow, Evelyn Frank Legal Resources
Monroe Solomon, Vanderbilt Law School Fellow, Matrimonial & Family Law
Peter Travitsky, Borchard Fellow, Evelyn Frank Legal Resources
Marta Vandenberg, Notre Dame Law School Fellow, Foreclosure Prevention
Allison Yurcik, Columbia Law School Fellow, Matrimonial & Family Law