Clinic Alum Focus – Racial Justice Work

May 24, 2021

Wesley Dozier ’19 (BA’16) is the Equal Justice Works Fellow at Just City in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. His work at Just City has adapted to the realities of practicing during a pandemic. “I felt like individual representation wasn’t as effective in changing what needs to be changed. Now, I’m doing a lot of coalition work with other actors in this space, partnering with them to try to change the criminal legal system in Shelby County and throughout Tennessee.” He firmly believes that COVID-19 is a racial justice issue. “My organization brought a lawsuit against a jail for its conditions as it related to keeping those incarcerated safe in light of COVID.”

Wesley attended Vanderbilt Law School hoping to pursue a public interest career. During his time in law school, Wesley was a student attorney in the Criminal Practice Clinic. He credits the clinic with helping him adjust to working after law school. “I remember representing a client during a criminal proceeding,” he said. “That did help me a lot when I first started practicing. … It was one I was able to draw from.”

He recommends that law students interested in public interest work search for educational experiences outside of law school. “Pursue your passions and aggressively go after what you want.” He also advises students to make connections with law school faculty, like Public Interest Dean Spring Miller, to help you figure out what you want your career to look like. And, most important, Wesley asks law students to be patient with themselves once they start work. “Being in law school is very different than being at work and working full time is difficult! It’s a huge learning curve. Give yourself grace to learn things you didn’t learn in law school.”

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