Equal Justice Works

EJWWe all know that the student loan debt bubble is dangerously close to bursting. Only a few lucky people get to walk away after graduation unscathed from the burn of student debt. But what about those who pursue graduate degrees such as law, medicine, or business? Suddenly an almost reasonable amount of student loan debt can become unbearable.

Some might say these students know exactly what they’re getting into and the earning potential for a career in law, medicine, or business makes it all worthwhile. But what about the lawyer who’d rather focus on public service instead of a high-paying corporate career, or the doctor who’d prefer to be without borders, or the business grad who wants to start a nonprofit?

Well, if you’re the lawyer in the equation, there is help for you! And it comes from an organization called Equal Justice Works. Just recently I had the pleasure of chatting with Isaac Bowers, Senior Program Manager of Educational Debt & Outreach at Equal Justice Works, to learn more about what they do. Read on to learn about this exciting nonprofit!

A Mission to Inspire Future Public Interest Attorneys

Equal Justice Works’ mission is to help inspire and train the next generation of public interest attorneys. It all began in 1986, as a group of law students across the country who wanted to increase the amount of public interest law programming in America’s law schools. Now it’s a national nonprofit (and runs the largest post-graduate fellowship program in the U.S) that provides training and resources to law students around the country and funds postgraduate fellowships to help them carve out careers in public interest law.

Here’s how it works. First or second year law students can participate in Equal Justice Works’ Law Student Corp.  Third year law students, whether or not they have been in Summer Corps, can apply for one of Equal Justice Works’ postgraduate fellowships to start their very own public interest program from scratch. So if a law student has a community and a cause near and dear to their heart, they can pitch an idea to serve that community by applying for a fellowship. If you are awarded the fellowship, you are funded for two years to implement your program. Last year alone, Equal Justice Works awarded 576 of these fellowships and since 1993, Equal Justice Works has sent more than a thousand attorneys into public interest fellowships across the country.

Getting to Know Isaac Bowers

I’d heard about this program back when a friend of mine was applying for her own fellowship and was recently reminded of it when reading a series of articles in US News and World Report called the Student Loan Ranger. I was so impressed with the articles that I even included one in our brand new Credit Score Resource Center. Then I decided I had to reach out to the author himself.

Isaac is the perfect example of the philosophy behind Equal Justice Works. Previously an environmental lawyer, Isaac wanted to make a more systematic impact through policy. He was also mindful of how burdensome his own student debt load was, so when the opportunity to help others at Equal Justice Works came along, he knew he had to jump on it.

Now Isaac is working with members of Congress to create new legislation that will help ease the burden of student debt. Talk about a hands-on approach to making a difference! On top of that, he’s been a big part of the force behind Equal Justice Works’ mission to provide financial awareness to students across the country – both by creating new materials to help students learn how to pay off their debt and by traveling wherever he’s needed to help spread this financial literacy.

EJW Book CoverEvolution to Helping Students Everywhere Manage their Debt

As time went on, it became clear that the issue of student loan debt is much too large to contain to just law students and graduates. Isaac said he’s given speeches across the country at law schools and, more often than not, students from other programs found their way into the seminars.

Because of this, Isaac and his colleagues developed more and more resources to help all students and graduates learn how to handle their student loan debt. They’ve even recently published a book called Take Control of Your Future, which is a comprehensive guide to borrowing and repaying student loans and includes information, especially on Public Service Loan Forgiveness – something that not nearly enough professionals working in public interest are aware of.

Coming to a School or Employer Near You

As of right now, Isaac and Equal Justice Works are giving 2-3 free webinars per month and visiting law schools, employers, public defenders’ offices, district attorneys’ offices, and so on. But what about you? Could you use some help from Equal Justice Works? You may be in luck.

If you work in a public interest field, for the government, or any 501(c)(3), you can request a visit to your office from Equal Justice works. Not a lot of nonprofits are willing to pound the pavement this way but having this sort of help in-person can’t be beat!

Nationwide Impact

Needless to say, I was personally very impressed when I spoke to Isaac about all the great work Equal Justice Works is doing. Want to see for yourself the kind of impact they’re having across the nation? Take a look at this great map or go to equaljusticeworks.org. Chances are, there could be Equal Justice Works programs happening right in your very own community!

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