Mountain View, CA (October 20, 2017) – Fenwick & West is pleased to announce that Fenwick-sponsored Equal Justice Works Fellow Renée Schomp has completed her two-year fellowship.
Based at nonprofit OneJustice, Schomp developed Rural Immigrant Connect, a project connecting California’s rural immigrants in dire need of legal services with pro bono lawyers in urban areas through in-person meetings and virtual technology communication.
“Fenwick provided me with a tremendous opportunity to use my legal degree to make a difference in the lives of a community who otherwise may not have had access to legal services,” Schomp said. “It was so gratifying to see the program come to life and make an impact—and to have Fenwick’s support along the way.”
California is home to more than 10 million immigrants, the largest such population in the nation. About 2.6 million of California’s immigrants are undocumented. Many immigrant communities, particularly those in rural areas, have little access to affordable legal services.
Rural Immigrant Connect has made significant headway in bridging this access to justice gap. Working with Schomp, Rural Immigrant Connect and other organizations, a Fenwick team was able to secure asylum for a minor fleeing violence in Guatemala. The Fenwick team has collaborated with Rural Immigrant Connect on several other immigration cases.
“I have admired Fenwick’s willingness to try this pilot project,” Schomp said. “Taking on a full-scope immigration case pro bono represents a huge investment of time, and it has been inspiring to see attorneys eager to make that commitment."
Schomp’s project primarily focused on California’s Central Valley, which has a critical need for nonprofit and pro bono lawyers. Following the initial presidential executive order to ban immigrants from seven Muslim countries, her work later expanded to include Northern California. As part of OneJustice’s mission to partner with other legal services organizations, Schomp collaborated with Social Justice Collaborative and Centro Legal de la Raza to build scalable pro bono programs to serve vulnerable communities in need of immigration advocacy.
During her fellowship, Schomp also helped design and lead an emergency pop-up legal clinic at San Francisco International Airport in response to the travel ban and developed cross-agency pro bono networks to increase the capacity of legal services organizations to leverage pro bono resources on behalf of underserved communities. In total, during her two years as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, Schomp collaborated to provide 296 individuals with assistance on immigration cases.
Prior to her fellowship, Schomp spent two years at OneJustice leading the Justice Bus Project in Northern California, which offers free one-day legal clinics to military veterans, immigrants, seniors and low income families throughout rural and isolated California communities. Now that her fellowship is concluded, Schomp will continue her work as a fulltime Senior Staff Attorney at OneJustice, facilitating the growth of cross-agency pro bono networks and expanding the Rural Immigrant Connect model to further increase representation of rural low-income clients.
“Renée’s passion for leveraging technology and creative strategies to bring much-needed legal services to a broader community in need is inspiring,” Fenwick managing partner Kate Fritz said. “For over a decade, Fenwick has been privileged to support outstanding Equal Justice Works fellows like Renée, helping them to pursue what may be lifelong careers in public service.”
"Fenwick's generous sponsorship of Renée's fellowship allowed OneJustice and the greater legal services community to move forward with designing new ways to continue to bridge the urban-rural inequity in legal services resources by both testing the use of virtual legal services and by crowd-sourcing teams of pro bono attorneys to take on full-term immigration cases,” Julia Wilson, CEO at OneJustice, said. “We are so grateful to Fenwick for its ongoing support of OneJustice, and we are delighted that Renée has chosen to stay with us as a Senior Staff Attorney in order to focus on replicating and scaling the many lessons learned during her fellowship.”
Schomp received one of Equal Justice Works’ 2015 fellowships, which the nonprofit awards to highly competent lawyers who have designed creative legal initiatives to address issues in communities that are not adequately represented in the legal system. With support from sponsors like Fenwick, the fellows receive competitive salaries and other benefits over two years. Other Fenwick fellows have served a variety of populations from veterans to low-income workers.
Fenwick’s pro bono program includes civil rights, child advocacy and asylum work, as well as impact litigation. In the past three years, Fenwick lawyers have logged over 50,000 pro bono hours valued at over $20 million in fees. Last year alone, the firm donated more than 19,000 hours valued at more than $9 million.
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