On Friday, September 15, Texas Law held its fifth annual social justice orientation for new and returning students. Kali Cohn, ’14, now a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, founded Change It Up! as a student in 2013. Through the years, Change It Up! has hued to Cohn’s vision to introduce students early in the school year to lawyering for social change at the law school and beyond; to inspire them to dedicate their careers to social change across the non-profit, government, and private sectors; and to connect them with like-minded faculty, staff, students and attorneys. This year a team of law students headed by Tyler Somes, ’18, helped the Justice Center plan and organize the event.
Change It Up! 2017 featured an inspiring keynote address by Will Snowden, a supervising staff attorney at the Orleans Public Defenders in New Orleans, Louisiana. Snowden has also created The Juror Project, an initiative to increase the diversity of jury panels while changing and challenging people’s perspective of jury duty.
Snowden’s address was followed by a panel of students and recent graduates who discussed their social justice work and how they charted their paths through law school. Panelists included Caroline Carow, ’14, a policy attorney with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services; Rhiannon Hamam, ’16, a public defender in Starr County with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid; Luis Ortiz, ’18, who focuses on immigration and criminal defense; and Claire Vaho, ’16, who participates in the State Bar Incubator Program and is launching a private family law practice. Nicole Simmons of the Career Services Office moderated the panel.
Attendees also had the opportunity to meet in small groups with second and third year students over lunch. The event concluded with a networking reception with faculty, staff, and attorneys.