SALT LAKE CITY — If there's such a thing as a win-win-win, a Utah nonprofit organization's legal fellowship program may be the textbook example.
"And Justice for All," a Utah nonprofit organization that supports three legal service agencies and provides grants to five others, has launched a legal fellowship program thanks to a $10,000 grant from CIT Bank.
Mary Anne Davies, a recent graduate of Loyola Law School, has joined the Disability Law Center as the first "And Justice for All" legal fellow. The center is a protection and advocacy organization for people with disabilities.
As a fellow, Davies joins a staff of about 30 in assisting people with disabilities who have experienced discrimination at work, school or in the community. The agency also advocates for people who are abused or neglected in institutional settings or in the community.
Prior to law school, Davies earned an undergraduate degree in political science, a master's in public administration from the University of Utah and worked as community impact director for United Way of Salt Lake.
Loyola Law School, part of Loyola Marymount University, is deeply rooted in Jesuit and Marymount traditions, encouraging students to develop their talents and gifts for the service of others.
Davies' education and professional experience — and recent return to Utah for her husband's employment — made the fellowship a perfect fit.
"It's really interesting work and really rewarding to know you're helping people," she said. "There's so many people who need access to the justice system, and there's so little resources. It's great to be part of an organization that helps provide that access."
Adina Zahradnikova, executive director of the Disability Law Center, said the paid fellowship also enables Davies to learn from mentors such as longtime attorneys and advocates.
"Mary Anne is an outstanding advocate who is passionate about social justice issues and meeting the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens. Mary Anne's passion and skills are clearly aligned with the values and the mission of the Disability Law Center," Zahradnikova said.
The building also houses "And Justice for All," which raises funds for the three legal agencies and awards grants to partners that also provide civil legal services to people who lack access to the justice system.
Its 2013 grantees include Navajo National Legal Services Inc., Catholic Community Services, Holy Cross Ministries Legal Immigration Program, International Rescue Committee and Utah Dispute Resolution.
Kseniya Kniazeva, development director for "And Justice for All," said the legal agencies that receive funding from the organization continue to expand their reach, but the numbers of people who need legal assistance for civil matters is substantial.
A study commissioned by "And Justice for All" published in 2007 found that more than two-thirds of low-income Utahns faced a civil legal dispute in 2006. Among them, just 13 percent of households reported they had received help from an attorney.
Kniazeva said "And Justice for All" is seeking other community partners to fund legal fellowships for the Legal Aid Society and Utah Legal Services.
The Legal Aid Society provides legal representation in matters of family law and people who need protective orders or civil stalking injunctions in the 3rd District Court in Salt Lake County.
Utah Legal Services provides free legal help in an array of civil cases to low-income Utahns.Comment on this story
For Davies, the fellowship enables her to put her legal education to immediate, practical use. Clients will benefit from her experiences in the nonprofit and legal sectors, which includes working as a law student with the national Cancer Legal Resource Center, which helps people navigate cancer-related legal issues.
"I really wanted to go to law school not only to be a better advocate but develop that specialized knowledge and really push myself in terms of the skills you develop in law school in writing and analysis and oral advocacy," she said.