Through volunteering at the University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic, run through a partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, Emily Roberts “fell in love” with legal aid.

“I felt like I was in the right place,” she said. “It was really fun to find legal aid and realize I could do the type of work I wanted to do in the city I was going to school in.”

The hands-on experience convinced law student Roberts that legal aid was the place for her. After a clerkship at The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati in Hamilton, where she combined domestic violence work with housing advocacy, she decided that she wanted to stay in Ohio post-graduation and continue working for legal aid.

The opportunity to apply for the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation’s Justice for All Fellowship came at just the right time. Her fellowship project addresses an issue she noticed during her clerkships, in that many domestic violence survivors with legal issues also had other problems that legal aid and local social service agencies could help address.

“A lot of times when a survivor is splitting up from their abuser, they’re being kicked out of their house and losing their support system,” she said. “I saw a disconnect between legal aid as a legal entity and the social service agencies that work around domestic violence.”

Roberts’ fellowship works to increase stability for domestic violence survivors, by better identifying overlap between various practice areas at legal aid and by furthering relationships with community partner organizations.

The ultimate goal is to improve referral mechanisms and to create a more cohesive channel of information.

“I want things to not be so separate between legal aid and the social service agencies,” she said. “By increasing the flow of information and partnerships, we can reduce families and kids falling into homelessness by figuring out what the barriers are before it gets to the point.”