My name is Jamie Gullen. I graduated from the Law School in 2012 and I am currently a staff attorney at Community Legal Services in the Employment Unit and I came into that role last year through a Langer, Grogan, & Diver Fellowship.
I was addressing the need of representing youth in young adults who have juvenile or criminal records and are experiencing tremendous barriers to being able to access education and employment opportunities because of those records. Which, primarily involves direct representation, helping to clear up people’s records to the extend possible, working with employers to advocate for hiring clients, filing discrimination lawsuits when necessary, and based on the experiences with individual clients on a daily basis, figuring out what the more systemic issues facing youth with records are and trying to craft policy solutions to address those needs.
When I came to Penn as a 1L, I heard great things about Community Legal Services as the largest provider of civil legal services in Philadelphia. So, applied there for my 1L summer internship and was in the public benefits unit. And, I really enjoyed the experience, so I worked with Penn to be able to find ways to be able to stay on during the school year. So, I continued interning all throughout my second year of law school and then decided that was the organization that I wanted to apply to for sponsorship with. And then was also able to stay on in my 3rd year through an independent study to begin working on some of the issues that I would eventually tackle in my fellowship project.
Before law school, I was a teacher in the Bronx and worked with young kids who were living in poverty and just saw the whole range of civil legal issues and criminal justice issues that impacted their lives. As a teacher, I didn’t really know much about the law at the time, but knew that there were all of these things happening outside of the classroom that impacting my kids’ ability to succeed. So, that drove me to come to law school and specifically drove my interest in working on youth issues to make sure that even once kids go down the school to prison pipeline, that that not is the end of their story, that they still have opportunities to reconnect with education and employment opportunities and try to lift themselves out of poverty.
I think one of the greatest things about Penn’s public interest community is the support that is given for student run pro bono projects, which is something that is pretty unique. And, I was supported during my time at Penn, and not just participating in pro bono projects, but getting to found pro bono projects based on areas that I was really passionate about, including civil rights law and education advocacy. So, I got the opportunity to not only work directly with clients with issues surrounding those topics, but also got the experience of identifying a need, figuring out how to implement a project to meet that need, which of course were really wonderful experiences for them being able to launch my fellowship project and trying to make it as successful as possible in just a year.
Transcript edited for length.