Generous gift will fund two-year social justice fellowship

January 10, 2014

Thanks to the tremendous generosity of social justice champions Jim Degel '80 and his wife, Jeannie Berwick, Seattle University School of Law will offer a two-year Leadership for Justice post-graduate fellowship.

The law school has offered the state's only post-graduate social justice fellowship since 2009, but it had been put on hold for 2014 due to funding constraints until Degel and Berwick again stepped up. They are among the law school's most generous donors, having previously sponsored a two-year fellowship as well as substantial gifts to support the Fred T. Korematsu Center and other social justice projects.

Degel BerwickDegel and Berwick have a deep understanding of the infrastructure needs of a chronically under-funded legal services system. Their generous gifts to the law school are strategically designed to provide lawyers and legal services to members of low-income and marginalized communities and increase resources available to social justice organizations.

"It's crucial, especially in this economic climate, to ensure access to justice," Degel said. "This fellowship works toward that, and we're honored to help the law school, which we know is as committed to equal justice as we are. Our gifts are one way of honoring those who have helped, mentored, and inspired us."

Supporting the early public interest careers of lawyers pays off in the long term, they say.

"Our experience is that lawyers who begin their careers advocating for the rights of marginalized communities are more likely to continue this important work either in the nonprofit context or as committed pro bono lawyers," Berwick said. "Fellowships such as this one offer opportunities that not only change the course of a law graduate's career, but also improve access of marginalized peoples to our legal system and defend and expand their rights."

Degel has devoted his legal career to serving injured and incapacitated children and adults in his role as guardian and trustee of Special Needs Trusts. Berwick's passion is advancing the rights of immigrants and refugees, including serving on the board of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for 18 years.

"We are beyond grateful to Jim and Jeannie for their incredible support of the law school, our students, and our mission to advance equal justice," said Dean Annette E. Clark. "They are examples for all of us in their own work and their philanthropy. Their commitment to educating the next generation of social-justice minded lawyers is unwavering."
The fellowship will be awarded to a 2014 or December 2013 Seattle University School of Law graduate engaging in a social justice project that will impact individuals or communities in Washington State starting in the fall. The fellowship will provide $60,000 each year for two years to a qualified host organization to cover salary, benefits and other costs for the fellow. The law school's Access to Justice Institute oversees the fellowship program.

"We are thrilled that another graduate will have this amazing fellowship opportunity," said ATJI Director Diana Singleton. "All our fellows have done important work and filled gaps at social justice organizations, and we're excited to see the proposals for this year."

Students must design projects in collaboration with a host organization, and projects must either help meet the needs of underserved or marginalized individuals or groups or work to advance social justice issues that are not being adequately addressed through existing legal systems.

Seattle University School of Law continues to be the only law school in the Northwest to offer a post-graduate fellowship program. Fellows have worked on projects related to wage theft, language access, disability rights, mental health, and incarcerated mothers.

Read more about our past and current fellows.