Established with a $90,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation, the Verizon Public Interest Fellowship Program is building a network of attorneys to help low-income victims of domestic violence with regaining their lives. Along with offering free legal assistance, financial literacy workshops, and employment training, the program is designed to create an ever-expanding team of lawyers to assist those seeking to break free of abuse. “The Verizon Public Interest Fellowship Program provides victims of domestic violence with the immediate safety and security that comes from pursuing their legal rights with the support and expertise of trained legal professionals, and the opportunity to seek long-term security by fostering financial independence,” noted Dean Patrick E. Hobbs.
To better combat the problem of domestic abuse, the program has enhanced the traditional public interest summer fellowship model to encourage and support the development of a team of professionals committed to fighting domestic violence. Along with participating in an intensive training regimen, Verizon Fellows meet together in discussion workshops with the goal of forming a network of lawyers who share a common purpose. The program also features extensive collaboration with legal and advocacy agencies, a strong academic component, mentorship relationships, and an opportunity for all stakeholders to share their knowledge with one another.
The program was announced Sept. 30, 2009 at a breakfast ceremony with special guests Newark Mayor Cory Booker; Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow, who has been selected by Governor-elect Chris Christie '87 to serve as the state's next attorney general; and Verizon New Jersey President Dennis Bone.
“We’re in a unique position to work with one of the nation’s leading law schools on a program that will directly assist domestic violence victims and their families,” said Mr. Bone. “With this grant, hundreds of victims of domestic violence will receive the legal assistance they need to rebuild their lives, as Seton Hall Law also creates a pipeline of lawyers knowledgeable and committed to working in this important area of the law.”
The program supports one postgraduate fellow and six summer fellows who are assigned to one of five legal service partners serving Newark, and Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic, and Union counties. The fellows are provided with training in family law as well as in the social and psychological needs of clients exposed to partner violence.
“One of the reasons there is a shortage of attorneys providing pro bono representation to victims of domestic violence is because they have never received appropriate training,” said Madeleine Kurtz, Associate Director for Public Interest at Seton Hall Law, who is overseeing the program. “The Verizon Public Interest Fellowship Program will allow us to better prepare students to represent domestic violence clients; not only will the program help clients now, but in the future, as well.”
The Verizon grant will fund the program through 2010. Seton Hall Law is seeking additional funding to continue the program beyond that timeframe. For more information on the Verizon Public Interest Fellowship Program, click here.