Geraldine Doetzer, a 2008 graduate of William & Mary Law School, is the first full-time Equal Justice America Post-Graduate Fellow to serve in Virginia. Equal Justice America (EJA) has become a national leader in providing opportunities for law students to work with organizations that deliver civil legal services to those most in need. The EJA Post-Graduate Fellowship Program was created in 2002, according to Joel Katz, EJA Development Director, to expose graduating law students to the possible career choice of public interest law.
Doetzer was chosen to serve in the Legal Aid Justice Center in Petersburg, as part of the "Virginians for Equal Justice" program created in 2007 to retain the skills of Virginia law students to work for legal aid organizations in the Commonwealth. She began her work there in October. "Since 1995," Katz said, "EJA has funded 12 postgraduate fellowships around the country with graduates of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia and NYU. William & Mary has now joined that prestigious group."
Katz also said that legal service organizations have greatly appreciated the EJA Summer Fellowship Programs, but they have indicated a serious need to hire more full-time attorneys who have passed the Bar, and could directly represent clients. "It is our hope," he said, "that EJA's initial funding will launch new public interest permanent positions."
"I came to law school planning to work as a public interest attorney," Doetzer said, "but without any specific career path in mind. I used my time at William & Mary Law School to explore as many types of legal work as I could. As a result of the EJA Fellowship, I will be able to work on housing, community outreach and activism, education, and other issues at the Legal Aid Justice Center that strike at the heart of poverty law topics in that they affect an underrepresented and vulnerable part of the population."
Doetzer graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor of arts degree cum laude in history and studied as an international student at the University of Liverpool during her undergraduate years.
At William & Mary Law School, she was a Graduate Research Fellow, and served on the William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law, where she wrote, "Hard Labor: The Legal Implications of Shackling Female Inmates During Pregnancy and Childbirth." She was a teaching assistant in the Law School's Legal Skills Program during her 2L and 3L years, and received the Gambrell Professionalism and the 2008 Spong Professionalism Awards, the CALI Excellence for the Future Award in Legal Skills IV, and the National Association of Women Lawyers Award. Doetzer was also involved with Students for Equality in Legal Education, the Public Service Fund, and the Student Hurricane Network, a national program in which law students serve the people of Mississippi and Louisiana with legal services and physical labor in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
During college and law school, Doetzer was involved in many organizations that provided legal aid services for vulnerable people. She worked in the University of Maryland Student Legal Aid Office in College Park and spent a semester researching and drafting memoranda on legal reform issues for HALT: An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform. During her law school years, Doetzer spent summer 2006 working as a law clerk for Legal Services of Northern Virginia; spring 2007 as an extern in the City of Hampton Office of the Public Defender, and summer 2007 as a summer associate at McKenna, Long & Aldridge, LLP, in Washington, D.C.
Last Fall, Doetzer was an intern for Legal Services of Eastern Virginia in Williamsburg. There, she and another student researched, wrote, and filed a declaratory judgement complaint to ensure access to affordable divorce proceedings for clients with incarcerated spouses. She hopes to argue the case before the Norfolk Circuit Court. Prior to graduation, Doetzer was an intern in the Public Defender's Office in Norfolk, where she assisted attorneys in the representation of clients facing misdemeanor and felony charges in federal court.
"Geraldine has demonstrated an exemplary commitment to public service," said Robert Kaplan, Associate Dean for Career Services and Public Service Initiatives. "The William & Mary Law School community is proud of her well-deserved recognition as an Equal Justice America Fellow."
"During the past few years, as I struggled with big choices about why I went to law school and how I will use my degree," Doetzer said, "I realized that 'doing good' was different from 'being good.' I see 'being good' as a passive state of existence, maybe a bit self-righteous. In contrast, there is nothing easy or sanctimonious about being an attorney for the underrepresented. 'Doing good' is an uphill battle in our society and in our justice system. The fact is that I have found, after studying the law, and working everywhere from a chaotic public defender's office to a huge firm on K Street in Washington, D.C., that being on the front lines of poverty law is what gets me excited about going to work every day."