Lawyers have the power to perform transformative work that changes lives, particularly for low-income Ohioans. That’s the guiding principle of Patrick Higgins’ work, an Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation Justice for All Fellow at the Ohio Poverty Law Center.
Higgins’ fellowship centers on removing barriers to employment. He recently helped seal the record of a domestic violence survivor, a woman who ended up with a criminal record after defending herself against her abuser.
“By removing her record, she’s now eligible to move up in her workplace where she wouldn’t have been otherwise,” he said. “She had been through significant trauma and was being held back simply because of this record. She’s now doing much better.”
Through the Foundation’s Justice for All Fellows program, law school graduates with a passion for public service address urgent legal problems facing Ohioans. Fellows provide a full range of legal services to low-income Ohioans throughout the state, ensuring fairness and access in the justice system.
Justice for All Fellow Kristin Riebsomer is working at the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati to improve outcomes for low-income pregnant women. Her project focuses on the concept of social determinants of health, which is the idea that stressors in a person’s life can have a profound impact on physical health. Her clients fill out a questionnaire during their pre-natal care, and Reibsomer steps in to assist with legal matters.
“When I can outline options for a client, it makes the process a lot less stressful for her, which is important when you are pregnant,” she said.
After their two-year fellowship concludes, many fellows, including Lauren Wert, a Justice for All Fellow at Community Refugee and Immigration Services, plan to remain in public interest law.
“I feel really fulfilled when I’m connected to other people and a part of a community,” Wert said. “Public service is something I’ve been called to do.”
Are you a recent law school graduate with a passion for public service? The application period for the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation’s 2019 Justice for All Fellowship is now open. Apply today!