June 6, 2016 - Two members of the University of Houston Law Center's 2016 graduating class will soon be putting their passion for public interest law to good use.
Ted Evans and Lisa Virgen were selected for two-year Equal Justice Works fellowships, which will begin in September. The nonprofit organization specializes in developing careers in public service for pre-law students, law school students, and recent law school graduates.
Evans will be working for Disability Rights Texas with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation as his sponsors. Virgen will be working with Lone Star Legal Aid and is sponsored by BP and the Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease law firm in Houston.
Virgen said she looks forward to helping those who are underserved when it comes to tax advocacy.
"When people think of public interest, they never think about tax law," Virgen said. "It's definitely an underserved area because people don't think low-income taxpayers would have any tax issues, but they do."
Virgen said she hopes to reach out to the immigrant community. "My goal is to create pro-bono clinics to help low-income taxpayers," she said. I also want to do more outreach, and bring more clients into the taxpayer clinic because Houston has such a high immigrant population, yet no one is trying to target this population and educate them about taxes."
Evans had previous experience working with Disability Rights Texas during the summer following his 1L year, and was interested in the fellowship after finishing law school. He said he wants to empower disabled people with the independence to make their own choices.
"The perception about people with disabilities is that we need to protect them and make decisions for them" Evans said. "What I really want to do is help change the mindset about people with disabilities – they're people who are able to make their own decisions. At some point, if you overprotect someone, you're taking away all of their choices."
Evans pointed to several classes he took at the Law Center that also served as inspiration to pursue the fellowship.
"Disability Rights Texas was my best guide throughout the process, but several professors at the Law Center helped shape what I decided to do," he said. "Professor Jessica Roberts' Disabilities and the Law class was helpful, and also Professor Ellen Marrus' Children and the Law class."
"We are delighted that two students from the Class of 2016 were selected for EJW Fellowships," Assistant Dean for Career Development Allison Regan said. "Between 45 and 55 fellowships are awarded nationally each year for these very competitive fellowships.
"By participating in the program, Lisa and Ted are positioned to make a huge difference in the lives of others while establishing a solid foundation for their legal careers. UHLC alums of the EJW Fellowship program have gone on to become leaders in the legal profession, and I have no doubt Lisa and Ted will follow this trend."