"Often, being a public interest lawyer means being a litigator. I didn't know that at first. If you're interested in employment, immigration, housing, civil rights, domestic violence, and other legal issues that affect low-income people, you are going to find yourself representing people in court pretty soon after you graduate. To prepare yourself to fake it until you know what you're doing, I recommend taking lots of fundamental 'bar' classes: for example, evidence, conflicts, state civil procedure, criminal procedure, corporations, and bankruptcy (really!). Those sound boring, but if you're taking them because you want to be the best possible advocate for low-income people they become relevant and fun. I also wish I'd done mock trial. It helps to practice oral arguments, direct/cross, and introducing documents into evidence before you're in court for the first time."
Elizabeth Wagoner is director of investigations at the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. She has worked for worker rights across a range of sectors - with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers focused on expanding its Fair Food Program; as supervising attorney for Workers' Rights at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty in Albuquerque; as Assistant Attorney General in the Labor Bureau of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, which enforces laws protecting low-wage workers; in private practice, litigating class action minimum wage and overtime cases with a boutique employment law firm, Outten & Golden LLP; and representing low-wage immigrant workers in employment matters at Make the Road New York, a non-profit, membership-based community center in Queens, New York.
Immediately after graduating from law school, Elizabeth developed Make the Road’s Immigrant Women's Workplace Justice Project, which provided representation to immigrant women in wage-and-hour and sexual harassment litigation against abusive employers. Her work was funded by a Texas Law Faculty Fellowship.
At Texas Law, Elizabeth participated in the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic and the Immigration Clinic, and was active in the National Lawyers’ Guild, the Justice Center, the Public Interest Law Association, and the successful effort to bring an LRAP to Texas Law. She spent her summers in New York City interning at Make the Road and at UNITE HERE’s international office as a Peggy Browning Fellow.