Elizabeth Hendren

Class of 2012

B.A. in Sociology, The Evergreen State College

What did you do before law school, and what led you to pursue a law degree?

I was a community organizer. I volunteered as an organizer for Common Ground Relief (CGR), a Katrina survivor-lead, grassroots organization which assists Katrina survivors with rebuilding and obtaining housing, among other things. I worked primarily with the Seattle chapter, which helped displaced Katrina survivors in the Puget Sound area to either return to the Gulf or resettle in the Northwest.

While doing this work, and in my personal life, I witnessed a lot of injustices faced by low-income individuals, ranging from housing issues, to employment discrimination based on race and sexual orientation, to immigration concerns, to family law and domestic violence issues. I felt like the people in my life were rarely able to access an attorney when they needed one because there were not enough attorneys providing free legal services to low-income and poor people.

Seattle University is the only law school I applied to, because at the time I could only afford one application fee, I wanted to stay in the Northwest, and of all the schools in the Northwest, Seattle University seemed the most committed to social justice work.

What have you found most valuable during your law school experience?

My most valuable experiences within the law school have been the classes that examine the role of attorneys in advocating for social change, such as Poverty Law, Law and Social Movements, and Advanced Civil Equal Justice Seminar and my internships with Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and Northwest Justice Project, as well as my experience with Incarcerated Mothers Advocacy Project (IMAP).

I have learned most of what I know about the practice of law in Washington from my internships, and my work with IMAP has taught me so much about the Alliance and the civil legal aid community in Washington. I also have really enjoyed programs like Social Justice Mondays, Social Justice Week, and events throughout the year which also provide a space for this inquiry. The Access to Justice Institute has been critical for me in terms of connecting to the opportunities I came to law school to pursue and nurturing my growth as a law student who wants to do social justice work with my law degree.

What are your goals after law school?

My professional goals are to continue providing services to poor and low-income people, and work to improve access to the legal system. I love the work I have been doing with Incarcerated Mothers Advocacy Project and am thrilled to spend my first year after law school continuing that work and building upon what I have learned so far as the law school’s Leadership for Justice Fellow. In a perfect world, I would spend the rest of my career working full-time to provide services to people and families who have been impacted by the prison industrial complex to help them gain the stability necessary to work on changing these destructive policies.

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