OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

Tag Archives: Social Justice

Departing Fellow reflects on social justice

OneJustice’s Megan Kent shares how human stories inspired a lifelong passion.

With her Fellowship coming to an end, we invited Megan Kent, Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, to share with us her inspiration for becoming a public interest attorney.

We are so fortunate to have Megan as our Justice Bus Project coordinator in Southern California. Thanks to her leadership and coordination, 231 clients have received life-changing legal help!

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Guest Blogger: Megan Kent, OneJustice Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow

[Photo: Megan Kent, Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, at an IMPACT LA with volunteer attorneys.]

Megan Kent, Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, at an IMPACT LA with volunteer attorneys.

What drove me to start my career as a public interest attorney? It’s simple – social justice.

Prior to law school, I served as a social worker and educator committed to social justice advocacy. The people I met – their stories – were humbling and inspiring. I witnessed firsthand the effects of generational poverty, mental illness, and social isolation on an abused six-month old.  I also saw the child’s mother successfully battle a meth addiction and thereafter pull herself and her child out of poverty. I watched as depressed and isolated mothers gathered together for our weekly support groups, battling the effects of mental illness while simultaneously strengthening their attachment with their newborns.

Later, I advocated on behalf of a 22-year-old survivor of human trafficking whose condition had become so severe that he had to use a walker. He suffered from a severe neurological disorder that developed from the modern-day slave-like conditions under which he was forced to work. After receiving a visa granted to victims of human trafficking, he was able to receive an experimental surgery he needed to overcome the effects of his illness.

These people – their stories – inspired me to start my career as a public interest attorney. By serving in this capacity, I continue advocating for social justice causes, and continue addressing challenges affecting marginalized individuals and their families. At the same time, I can more effectively address systemic issues (like anti-poverty policies, racial injustice, and immigration laws) that affect marginalized individuals’ ability to thrive and succeed in our county.

My inspiring colleagues at OneJustice and I are able to do just that. Through projects like the Justice Bus, we’ve implemented innovative strategies to address systemic issues that affect low-income and underserved populations. Marginalized veterans, immigrants, seniors, and families throughout California are able to access quality legal services to address problems they face – services they likely would not access without our programs.

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[Photo: Megan Kent, Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow.]Our guest author, Megan Kent, is an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow and member of the national Equal Justice Works Veterans Legal Corps. At OneJustice, she runs the Justice Bus Project in Southern California, bringing life-changing legal assistance to low-income Californians in rural and isolated communities.

Justice with a side of Burritos and Science

OneJustice welcomes new staff in a two part series.

This month, we will feature a 2 part series to introduce our new staff: 2 this week and 2 next week. So many great new folks at OneJustice and we can’t wait for you to meet them! Please join us in welcoming the first two newbies: Chris McConkey, Staff Attorney of the Healthy Nonprofits Program and Patrick Fodell, California Pro Bono Institute Coordinator.

We were so excited to hear about these new positions that we asked them to share with us a little about themselves and their projects.

Please welcome Chris and Patrick!

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EDITED_Chris McConkey Photo

Chris McConkey, Staff Attorney for the Healthy Nonprofits Program.

So Chris, what drew you to OneJustice and in particular, the Healthy Nonprofits Program? 

OneJustice leads with cutting-edge best practices and optimism. I love that the Healthy Nonprofits Program (“HNP”) concentrates on strengthening California’s legal nonprofit infrastructure. HNP works –at both the organizational and system levels–through nonprofit management consulting and public policy advocacy. We help legal services nonprofits to become more robust and grow. A larger and stronger legal nonprofit infrastructure expands the availability of quality legal representation for people who are lower-income.

Tell us more about your Staff Attorney position. What kind of work will you be doing?

As a Staff Attorney, I will help with OneJustice’s consulting and public policy work. This includes researching, crafting, and sharing best practices in nonprofit law and management, such as strategic planning, program assessment, board governance, employment, ethics, and tax. I will also track and advocate for public policies that promote the health and positive perception of legal services nonprofits.

What was your career path that led to OneJustice?

Just before I came to OneJustice, I was the Staff Attorney and Intake Coordinator for the Los Angeles HIV Law and Policy Project (“LA HLPP”) at the Disability Rights Legal Center. At LA HLPP, I provided counsel and representation to people living with HIV or AIDS. Most of our clients were lower-income, LGBTQ, monolingual Spanish-speaking, and/or had co-occurring chronic health issues. I advised them on legal issues arising from their medical conditions such as employment discrimination, medical privacy, public benefits, and medical planning. Before LA HLPP, I clerked at the ACLU of Southern California and Public Counsel Law Center in Los Angeles.

All great answers, Chris! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I really like science–especially astronomy and astrophysics. I even prepared to study those subjects in college. Now, I visit the California Academy of Sciences whenever I can, and try to camp where there is little light pollution, so I can see the stars!

Thank you so much for answering our questions, Chris! Patrick, your turn! Tell us, why OneJustice?  

Photo: Patrick Fidell, California Pro Bono Institute Coordinator

Patrick Fodell, California Pro Bono Institute Coordinator.

I love how OneJustice fights for justice by engaging a broad network of individuals throughout California. I find this comprehensive approach very effective in fighting for those who need assistance the most. I also shared an office space with them while working at the Legal Aid Association of California, so I knew they were some of the most passionate and hardworking people I have ever met.

What will you be responsible for at OneJustice – and what do you hope to achieve?

100% of my time is dedicated to the California Pro Bono Training Institute (CPBTI), a new project of OneJustice. With our partners at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Neighborhood Legal Services, we hope to achieve CPBTI’s goal of increasing efficiency in the statewide pro bono delivery system and expanding overall pro bono in the state by increasing access to trainings, reducing the creation of duplicative trainings, and facilitating easier recruitment and support of private sector attorneys. We all know how impactful pro bono volunteers are, so I am very happy to be part of a project that will bring in more pro bono volunteers throughout California to assist those seeking justice.

What did you do before coming to OneJustice?

I’ve been working in legal aid since I graduated from college in 2008. My positions at the Legal Aid Association of California, the Watsonville Law Center, and Self-Represented Litigation Network revolved around planning and executing trainings for either legal service organizations or community members. I am so excited to continue to plan trainings but this time for future pro bono attorneys!

And tell us something about you that is not work-related.

As a recent transplant to the Los Angeles area, I’m very into exploring LA in order to determine if Southern California does indeed have a better burrito than Northern California. The jury is still out, and I am open to suggestions.

We are so excited to welcome you two to the team!

See you all next week when we introduce our other 2 new staff members!

 

A leader in pro bono delivery

Join us as we celebrate Kathryn Fritz

Managing Partner at Fenwick and West LLP and one of our event honorees!

Headshot of Kathryn Fritz, Managing Partner of Fenwick & West LLPEvery year, the OneJustice network gathers at our Opening Doors to Justice event to celebrate three individuals whose outstanding accomplishments have moved the needle on legal services, pro bono, and access to justice. Won’t you join us this year on:

Thursday, June 25th 

6-9 pm

Julia Morgan Ballroom (downtown SF)

*Tickets and auction items are now available

We are incredibly honored to be recognizing Kate Fritz for her work in mobilizing the private sector to bring legal help to those in need. With Kate’s leadership, in 2013, Fenwick & West contributed over 11,000 hours in pro bono services, valued at over $5 million in legal services. The firm is at the forefront of pro bono delivery, as a founding law firm in the Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative, the Virtual Legal Services Project, and a frequent partner in the Justice Bus Project, reaching isolated communities throughout Northern California. Please welcome our second honoree, Kathryn Fritz, Managing Partner at Fenwick & West LLP!

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Why have you committed your time and energy to working on increasing access to civil legal services and access to justice?

I’ve always viewed service not only to our clients but to our broader community as a core part of being a lawyer. Sometimes we lose sight of just how essential our service is in providing access to justice, but it’s critical that we do not forget, and so critical that we remember what an essential part every member of the legal profession has to play. Philosophically, those ideas are what drew me to the study of law and those same themes have drawn me into pro bono work. It’s both gratifying and deeply humbling to be able to serve those who don’t have easy access to the privilege we take for granted and whose voices often go unheard.  The need is so great and the legal profession has a unique ability to make a difference.  On a more personal note, I’m also very motivated by my two teenage sons and the desire to help make our community one that ensures fairness and protection  for everyone. Community engagement is tremendously powerful, and we all have meaningful contributions to make, but we must act.

What is one particularly rewarding experience you have had in your work on these issues?

Every pro bono case that I have worked on has changed my life: they could not help but do that. But three cases stand out. In two cases I was able to help secure political asylum for clients whose lives were in grave danger in their home countries – one because of his religious beliefs and another because he was a gay man who was HIV positive.  In a third case,  we obtained reversal of the death penalty  for our client. It is hard not to be changed fundamentally by these experiences.

In addition to my personal pro bono work, in my role as Managing Partner of Fenwick & West, I’ve also made it an important part of my focus to promote the firm’s pro bono commitment. Not only do our attorneys and staff devote thousands of hours every year to pro bono work, but we support fellows and organizations (such as OneJustice) who in turn go out and engage even more people to do this work.

What is your favorite part of being a member of the OneJustice network?

How can I name just one?  The Justice Bus project  is just one example of the inspired and innovative way that OneJustice enables the expansion of pro bono work. We have made several trips to serve clients in rural areas, including Napa and Yolo counties, and each time our bus has been oversubscribed. It’s our most popular pro bono opportunity for our attorneys and summer associates (and the client in-house teams that we sometimes partner with on the trips). They come back so energized and engaged. The Justice Bus is a great opportunity to have a personal impact and make a difference in the lives of those you’re helping. We’re also proud of the work being done through the Rural Justice Collaborative which is expanding access to legal services in rural and isolated communities throughout the Bay Area. The group supports the role of pro bono attorneys in the delivery of legal services to the poor, including innovative collaborations between law firms and legal services organizations. We’re also looking forward to working with OneJustice as you host our upcoming Equal Justice Works Fellow, Renee Schomp, and extend the reach of the Justice Bus project even further.

Thank you, Kate, for your commitment to bringing pro bono assistance to Californians in need. We cannot wait to celebrate your achievements next month! 

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