Law School Grads Change Lives through Fellowship

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


UPDATE  |  Texas Access to Justice Foundation

Since 2002, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, as part of its commitment to ensuring access to justice, has sponsored a postgraduate fellowship program with Equal Justice Works. 

Recent law school graduates develop new and innovative legal projects that impact lives and serve communities in desperate need of legal assistance.

Fellows use an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to identifying and addressing critically-needed legal services and are matched with a nonprofit organization that has agreed to host them for two years.

Olivia Mathias is a current Fellow with Catholic Charities Cabrini Center who is working to provide holistic legal representation to victims of human trafficking in Houston and creating a framework through which non-profits and pro bono attorneys can meet clients’ wide-ranging legal needs.

Many victims have criminal charges related to their victimization that make it difficult to get a job. Other victims have legal needs that include filing civil suits against the perpetrator, or family law concerns such as securing child custody or guardianship.

“The fact that so many people are alarmed to hear that human trafficking is not just happening abroad shows how skilled the traffickers are at concealing the crime,” Mathias said.  “I spend a significant portion of my time educating people about what human trafficking actually is and raising awareness about its impact.”

The Equal Justice Works Fellowships Program was launched to address the shortage of attorneys working on behalf of traditionally under-served populations and causes in the United States. It has been instrumental in recruiting lawyers to pursue careers in public interest law: 80 percent of the program’s Fellows remain in the public interest sector.

Other Fellows from the 2014 class include:

    • Gonzalo Serrano is working with Equal Justice Center in Dallas to bring wage recovery and employment justice legal services to low-wage workers in Dallas-Fort Worth.
    • Johnathan Silva, a veteran, is working with Lone Star Legal Aid in Houston to advocate and appeal on behalf of returning veterans who are being denied the full benefits that their service and/or level of service-related injury merit.
    • Mani Nezami with Thurgood Marshall School of Law’s Earl Carl Institute is addressing the issue of disproportionate minority contact by providing legal representation to children who are in the criminal justice, the mental health and foster care systems.

The 2015 Fellows include:

  • Esther Kim, a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, will work in the Houston office of Lone Star Legal Aid. She will provide the Asian community in Harris and Fort Bend counties with legal services in guardianship and domestic violence cases through direct representation, outreach and collaboration with local organizations.
  • Tovah Pentelovitch, a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, will work in the Austin office of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.  She will work to curb problematic use of Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs in Austin and underserved regions. Efforts will include outreach and representation of some of the most at-risk students in school disciplinary proceedings. We are proud to co-sponsor Tovah’s Equal Justice Works Fellowship with Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

The 2016 Equal Justice Works Fellowship application process opens July 6, 2015

For more information or to help sponsor the Fellowship program, visit: