April 15, 2012
Richard Bailey (’12) was in the right place at the right time the afternoon he overheard some students talking about their work in the Economic Justice Project (EJP). When he learned he could actually represent clients at hearings—in only his second year of law school—he joined the project.
This choice had its challenges. “I did not know anything about public assistance laws or how they affected students before I started,” Bailey said.
It did not take him long to see the struggle of CUNY undergraduates who were trying to stay in school and meet their “workfare” requirements. “I wanted to do everything I could to help them succeed,” he said.
One of his clients was going to school to become a teacher, but to receive her public assistance benefits, she was required to work 25 hours per week. She worked her hours at a preschool, but when her supervisor failed to submit a document confirming this, the client’s benefits were suspended. Bailey gathered the evidence necessary to show that his client had complied with her work requirements and was successful in restoring her benefits.
A desire to defend the rights of people like that client is why Bailey came to law school. “CUNY Law stood out as being the best place for me to develop a network of fellow students committed to using the law to advance individual and community rights,” he said. When he graduates this spring, Bailey is considering whether to go back to his former field of human rights or head into immigration law practice.
Reflecting on EJP, Bailey acknowledged the importance of the project’s goals and mission. He added, “The project started as a stopgap measure. It should not be necessary anymore, but it seems to be more necessary than ever.”