Catholic Law rising second-year student Tyler Buchholz has been accepted as an Equal Justice America (EJA) Fellow. His acceptance as an EJA Fellow comes in conjunction with his summer externship working as a law clerk at Blue Ridge Legal Services.
EJA works to provide opportunities for lawyers, and law students, to work with organizations that deliver civil legal aid services to those most in need. While there is a Constitutional right to an attorney in criminal proceedings, there are no Constitutional rights to representation in civil proceedings, and there are certainly no economic guarantees to counsel.
About this opportunity, Buchholz shared, “Equal Justice America is a 501(c)3 non-profit established in 1993 that provides fellowship opportunities to students, like me, who are working for legal aid organizations. Since their establishment in 1993, they have sponsored fellowships for more than 5,000 students from over 80 different law schools, working across over 500 different organizations, and have provided approximately 1.7 million hours of free legal services. Being selected to become a fellow this summer and joining a network of people who are dedicated to addressing the demand for legal services amongst low-income members of our communities is truly an honor. The work I am doing this summer with Blue Ridge Legal Services is only a small drop in the bucket though. The ABA estimates that 80% of the civil legal needs of those in poverty are not being met. That 80% are facing a variety of legal issues including eviction proceedings, debt collection (for money they don’t have), bankruptcy, or family issues such as divorce or domestic abuse. Even having one year of legal education and a little over a month of work as a law clerk, a proceeding with those high stakes would be daunting, let alone for a person without any legal training.”
Buchholz continued, “It has truly been a humbling experience joining Blue Ridge and seeing the passion all of their dedicated attorneys have towards combating this issue and improving their communities. EJA’s fellowships are designed to help expose a new generation of lawyers to the urgency of this issue, and I can say my time with Blue Ridge has already opened my eyes up to an issue I was rather unaware of. And it opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t need my degree to make a difference. I can start making one still as a student. On that same note, I’m glad that EJA asks their fellows to post on social media about their work because it helps raise awareness of the issue, and that’s the first step to combating this problem. This already has been an amazing experience and I look forward to my remaining time with Blue Ridge. I can easily say that this experience, both with Blue Ridge and as an EJA fellow, is something that I would recommend to any 1L, at Catholic or elsewhere, who is looking for both a quality and an impactful experience for their first summer. All of us can make a difference and we should all strive to.”