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Alison Heinen, 3L, Named 2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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When you ask Alison Heinen, third-year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, her professional goals, working toward the public good is at the foundation of all her plans.

“I want to be using the knowledge and privilege that comes with being an attorney to help support community-led movements for social change.”

It’s that drive and dedication that earned her the distinguished honor of being named to this year’s cohort of Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fellows.

Equal Justice Works, the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law, announced its 2019 Class of EJW Fellows on Tuesday, May 13. Those selected for the honor are recent law school graduates who will launch public interest law careers through a project of their own design.

Heinen was selected as part of this distinguished cohort out of 450 applications. The 2019 Class of Equal Justice Works Fellows includes graduates from 39 law schools who will work at 73 legal services organizations in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Among this year’s sponsors are 26 leading law firms and 23 Fortune 500 corporations. Heinen is sponsored by Exelon Corporation and Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.

“The Equal Justice Works Fellowship program offers aspiring public interest lawyers an opportunity to do so much more than provide legal representation—it’s an opportunity to become a force for change,” said David Stern, executive director at Equal Justice Works. “We are excited to welcome these new Fellows and look forward to seeing how they will help balance the scales of justice in our country.”

Heinen will be directing her energies toward working with community activist organizations, helping Chicago communities fight for justice and achieve lasting social change through Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA) in Chicago. She will specifically focus on immigration law.

“My project will launch a new model of representation to respond to the growing need for quality, affordable legal representation for individuals at risk of deportation or removaI,” said Heinen. “I will focus on empowering and educating detained immigrant mothers. These women need access to legal counsel that will help them navigate their immigration status and provide particularized attention to legal questions resulting from their status as mothers.”  

Receiving the fellowship allows Heinen to take the education and public interest experience she gained through Denver Law, including externships with Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network and National Immigrant Justice Center and continue the mission of serving the public good.

“My legal education at Denver Law has instilled in me the importance of being a community lawyer,” Heinen said. “Law school has given me the opportunity to work with and learn from lawyers, social workers, community activists, politicians, and clients. I know this ability to communicate with and learn from diverse groups of people will serve me well in my fellowship position.”

As Heinen worked at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless for several years prior to law school, the fellowship means returning to the city that inspired her to be a lawyer. And while her new career is taking her miles away, she is forever grateful to those at Denver Law who helped her achieve her goals.

“My supervisors, professors, and fellow students during the past three years have been nothing but supportive of my passion for pursuing public interest law. In particular, Professors Lexi Freeman, Margaret Kwoka and César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández have supported me constantly, and I am so grateful for their mentorship,” she said. “I am also very grateful to Equal Justice Works for making this fellowship possible.”