Graduate builds a community of public interest lawyers in Arkansas

(Dec. 13, 2011) Three 2011 graduates have received AmeriCorps fellowships to work with another alumnus in providing legal services to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Arkansas.

Amy PritchardAmy Pritchard '09 is a staff attorney and AmeriCorps director for Legal Aid of Arkansas, based in Fayetteville. Her experience in Arkansas spurred a burst of graduates to pursue public interest opportunities there as well. Three May '11 graduates are meeting critical needs across the state.

Adam Chromy is AmeriCorps Medical Legal Coordinator for a Medical-Legal partnership with Arkansas Children's Hospital  in Little Rock. Kevin De Liban is an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps fellow working to create medical-legal partnerships to aid poor and disabled people in rural eastern Arkansas communities  in the mid-Mississipi Delta, based in West Memphis. Elizabeth Tonti is an AmeriCorps Legal Fellow providing legal services to protect people from domestic violence. She is based in Jonesboro. All three are grateful to be doing the work they went to law school to do.

"Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the country. We have such incredible unmet legal needs," Pritchard said.  "Legal Aid of Arkansas serves 31 counties in Arkansas and has fewer than 20 staff attorneys, so the introduction of AmeriCorps fellows has made a huge difference in the impact we are able to have."

Pritchard encouraged De Liban to apply, and he and other friends did the same for Tonti and Chromy. Pritchard was the agency's only Spanish-speaking lawyer. With De Liban, now there are two. 

Legal Aid of Arkansas interviewed many qualified candidates from public interest law schools, but the SU grads came out on top.

"In addition to being trained in the law, Seattle University graduates consistently have exhibited a special set of skills that I have not seen elsewhere," said Executive Director Lee Richardson. "They understand the true meaning of social justice and how attorneys are in a unique situation to be impactful in bringing about positive and lasting change in communities.

I have been amazed at how each of the four we have recruited has the ability to think deeply about issues and how to best deploy scarce resources. They have a great understanding of the 'big picture', something it took me nearly two decades of public service work to grasp, which is almost non-existent in new law school graduates. Each has shown great potential to become leaders in the public interest legal community. They all have proven to be true humanitarians and tireless advocates for social justice,"