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Public interest networking program ‘First 10’ supports alumni in early practice

Center for Public Interest Law committee alumnae Caroline Manley (‘11), Jenny Ansay (‘10) and Aya Barnea (‘10) are making great strides not only in their public interest law careers, but also in building the Chicago public interest law community.

All three have dedicated their legal careers to increasing access to justice: Caroline Manley is an attorney working on elder law issues at the Center for Disability and Elder Law; Jenny Ansay is the regional attorney for Justice for Our Neighbors, a nonprofit immigration organization; and Aya Barnea is a staff attorney at the Illinois Appellate Court for Cook County. As young attorneys, they also have dedicated a great deal of time to organizing and attending events sponsored by the public interest lawyers network First 10.

First 10 is a peer-led organization that supports attorneys in their first 10 years of public interest practice as well as the communities in which they serve. They provide this support through networking, professional development and continuing legal education opportunities that are tailored to public interest work. One such event held on January 29 at DePaul focused on immigration law and policy, featuring speakers Fred Tsao, policy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), and immigration practitioner Michael Jarecki. First 10 members also regularly gather for community building events, including volunteer projects, happy hour and potluck events. A wide variety of practice areas are represented at each event. As Manley explained, “Anyone who is interested in public interest work is welcome.”

Similarly, public service-oriented law students have a home base in DePaul’s Center for Public Interest Law. From this home base they can build skills, network, exchange resources, and cultivate friendships with likeminded students and faculty. First 10 serves as an extension of that community atmosphere, according to Manley. Jenny Ansay and Aya Barnea both echoed the importance of being involved with other attorneys who are starting out in their legal careers. Ansay credits this community atmosphere as a key reason to get involved, and stay involved, with First 10. “Sometimes doing the kind of work that I do is a little overwhelming and intense,” says Ansay. “Knowing you have a support system out there with other people who understand you and who do what you do makes First 10 a valuable resource for young attorneys.”

Barnea encourages law students to join First 10 upon graduation. “You’ll see how valuable it is to meet other people in your professional peer group and how nice that peer group is to have,” she remarked. “The city is big and it can feel hard to navigate. Having this resource is a very nice feeling.”