The University of Baltimore Students for Public Interest recently sponsored a webinar featuring recent graduates who are working in the public interest sector entitled Public Interest and Access to Justice. The panel included Randi Ames ‘13, attorney at Disability Rights Maryland, Julianne Tarver ‘15, program counsel at Legal Services Corporation, and Caylin Young ‘16, public policy director at ACLU of Maryland. The program was moderated by UB Law Professor Michele Gilman.
The participants were asked how they found their way to the social justice field. Ms. Tarver began by saying that she always wanted to help people. She chose UB as a way to find her path into organizations that do just that. Ms. Ames also wanted to get into social justice. She started in law school as a volunteer in the Maryland Medicaid program. Mr. Young said he always knew that he wanted to do legislative work, and he started out with an internship with Senator Cory Booker.
The pandemic has affected each of their practices. Ms. Ames said her practice and her clients have been dramatically impacted. It became next to impossible to speak to clients, especially those in nursing facilities. Many of those clients have been mostly isolated for more than a year. They don’t have access to phones or visitors, and their roommates may have died from Covid. For now, her organization is trying to expand its telehealth services as the pandemic keeps going. Ms. Tarver says the pandemic has complicated her practice in multiple ways. Virtual visits for many of her clients are not possible because of poor internet connections. Mr. Young has had to find ways to maintain access to legislators during the pandemic, something which he says is essential for the democratic process.
Professor Gilman asked the panel what has been the most satisfying aspect of their practices. Ms. Tarver said that working with victims of domestic violence has been most fulfilling. She said that sometimes the cases are so complicated, but seeing someone walk out of a courtroom and feel free and safe is amazing. Ms. Tarver also enjoys training and mentoring attorneys to do her work so that more people can have representation.
Ms. Ames talked about the couple that she worked with who had a very technical issue that was preventing them from getting their Medicaid benefits. The couple had the door shut on them everywhere that they went. The case took a lot of hard work. But seeing them succeed and get the coverage that they needed was a “real high.”
Mr. Young’s high point in his career has been pushing for police reform. He was at the center of efforts to pass the landmark police reform bills over Governor Hogan’s veto. He’s also been part of efforts in Maryland to ban the use of solitary confinement on juveniles.
Finally, the panelists were asked how they manage stress. Ms. Tarver said, “Self-care is health-care.” She makes sure that every day there is a cutoff time where her work ends. She has a group of friends in the public interest world that all check -in with each other and try to offer support. Ms. Ames recommends maintaining a balance and relying on her team. Sometimes, she says, you need to be able to stop and communicate your needs and ask for help. Mr. Young says everything in his life goes on hold during the legislative session. But it’s still important to pace yourself.