Third-year law student Mason Gates has been selected for the 2022 Equal Justice Works Fellowship, one of the most prestigious and competitive post-graduate fellowships in the country.
As a fellow, he will be hosted by the Legal Aid of Arkansas where he will work to stop Black land loss and create generational wealth in the Mississippi Delta by resolving heirs’ property, educating communities and connecting landowners with funding opportunities. Gates’ Equal Justice Works Fellowship has been sponsored by Latham & Watkins LLP.
“I came to law school to become a better advocate for change,” Gates said. “When I learned about heirs’ property and the incredible need in Arkansas for lawyers to do the work, I knew that was where I wanted to start my public interest career. Equal Justice Works allowed me to identify an issue and draft a proposal to create a new position at Legal Aid of Arkansas in West Memphis. Years of hard work by other passionate people have led to this opportunity, and it is exciting to help further their work and facilitate future progress. I am grateful for the strong partners I have in Equal Justice Works, Latham & Watkins LLP, Legal Aid of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas School of Law. Together, we can help restore property rights and build generational wealth in the Mississippi Delta.”
Gates is among 84 new public interest lawyers who were selected as 2022 Fellows from over 385 applications. Each year, Equal Justice Works selects a class of passionate public service leaders who have designed two-year projects in partnership with legal services organizations to help build sustainable solutions in the communities where they serve. These projects are funded by the generous support of law firms, corporations, foundations and individuals.
“Each year, we have the privilege of launching the careers of passionate public service leaders who can respond to the increased demand for civil legal aid across our country,” said Jessica Ryckman, director of fellowships at Equal Justice Works. “We look forward to supporting Mason’s public interest journey and the work he will be doing to advance economic and racial justice in Arkansas.”
Past recipients of the Equal Justice Works Fellowships from the U of A School of Law include alumni Jason Bailey J.D.’15, Katherine (Shea) Crosby J.D.’12, Tracye Walker J.D.’06 and Trevin R. Ware J.D.’15. Like Gates, Crosby and Walker were also hosted by the Legal Aid of Arkansas.
“Legal Aid of Arkansas is thrilled that Mason will be joining us to help preserve heir property and the associated generational wealth for low-income Arkansans,” said Kevin De Liban, director of advocacy at Legal Aid of Arkansas. “This is particularly important in the Delta, where Black families have lost extraordinary amounts of land due to legal complexities and predatory action. We’re grateful to Equal Justice Works and Latham & Watkins for supporting this critical work for our client communities.”
Latham & Watkins LLP has sponsored Equal Justice Works Fellows for more than two decades.
“We are thrilled for the opportunity to sponsor Mason’s fellowship,” said Wendy Atrokhov, public service counsel, director of global pro bono at Latham & Waktins LLP. “Heirs’ property is damaging to families and communities. It disproportionately affects communities of color, subjecting families to eviction and loss of land and depriving them of critical intergenerational inheritance and wealth transfer. As a full-time public interest attorney exclusively devoted to this issue, Mason will create an enduring legal aid program to help families protect and retain their land and secure their legacies.”
Service to the community is a core obligation of practicing attorneys and a value the U of A School of Law seeks to instill in its students. Through our pro bono program, the law school offers opportunities for service and recognizes students who engage in substantive service. The U of A School of Law Summer Public Service Fellowship Program provides paid public service fellowships to promising law students interested in public service careers. It offers meaningful employment opportunities and provides legal services to nonprofit, non-governmental and government entities that cannot otherwise afford summer interns. Moreover, the School of Law Legal Clinic gives students hands-on skills training by representing real clients in real-life legal situations and provides a much needed service to the Northwest Arkansas community.
“Mason’s path illustrates the important ways in which the law school supports students committed to public interest law,” said Annie Smith, associate professor of law and faculty director of the public service and pro bono program at the law school. “Mason participated in one of our pro bono wills clinics in the Arkansas Delta as a first-year law student. During his 2L summer, he was selected to receive funding as one of our 10 Summer Public Service Fellows — he was the Rose Law Firm 200th Anniversary Public Service Fellow and worked for Mississippi Center for Justice. As a 3L, he collaborated with Career Services, law faculty and alumni to develop his successful proposal. Finally, as a student in both our Immigration Clinic and Civil Litigation and Advocacy Clinic, Mason developed the skills necessary to initiate a successful career in advocacy.”
About Equal Justice Works: Founded by law students in 1986, Equal Justice Works is a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for lawyers to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service. As the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law, Equal Justice Works brings together an extensive network of law students, lawyers, nonprofit legal aid organizations and supporters to promote public service and inspire a lifelong commitment to equal justice.
About the School of Law: The law school offers a competitive J.D. as well as an advanced LL.M. program, which are taught by nationally recognized faculty. The school offers unique opportunities for students to participate in pro bono work, externships, live client clinics, competitions, and food and agriculture initiatives. The school strives to identify, discuss, and challenge issues of race, color, ethnicity, and the impact(s) they have on students, faculty, and staff members in an effort to achieve a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community. From admitting the Six Pioneers who were the first African American students to attend law school in the South without a court order to graduating governors, judges, prosecutors, and faculty who went on to become President of the United States and Secretary of State, the law school has a rich history and culture. Follows us at @uarklaw.