Haub Alumni of the Month: Eric Paulk ‘16

Fighting for Equality

Alumnus Eric Paulk is making strides in the fight for equality in his own home state of Georgia and making headlines, too, as one of the state’s Top 40 Leaders Under 40. In 2020, Eric was awarded a prestigious Soros Justice Fellowship, with the goal of building a nationwide network of Black HIV movement lawyers to protect, defend, and support people living with HIV. A true agent of change, Eric points to his law school experience at Pace for playing a critical role in his journey towards equality and advancing change.

Eric Paulk graduated from Morehouse College in 2003. From there, though he was pretty sure he ultimately wanted to attend law school, he spent time in the private sector to gain experience in the business world and build upon his undergraduate training. “I knew that law school was a big commitment in every sense of the word. I wanted to make sure that I was ready to commit so I spent some time working in a variety of positions. Then in my last role before I went to law school, I was Managing Director of a performing arts center and in that position I oversaw every aspect of the center – which included contract negotiations and the legal department. It reignited my desire to attend law school.”

Eric started at Pace in 2013. “I really immersed myself in law school. I joined student groups. I participated in clinics. I spoke with professors outside of class. I took advantage of a wonderful learning experience.” While at Pace, Eric was involved in the Black Law Students Association, LAMBDA Law Student Association, and participated with moot court.  “One of the most practical learning experiences that I had was as a civil rights extern working through the law firm Newman Ferrara with Professors Cohen and McLaughlin. This provided me with experience in research, writing, discovery, trial preparation, and client contact. I also learned how to prepare legal documents and petitions. It was an invaluable experience.”

After graduating from law school, Eric was the Tyron Garner Fellow at Lambda Legal in Atlanta. “In the fellowship role, I worked on policy issues, I worked to move along local and regional legislative efforts, I was an advocate, I spoke at forums, panels, meetings, and events, and I also did legal research. I became an expert on LGBTQ issues and HIV criminal justice reform which allowed me the opportunity to engage in real grassroots efforts for equality. Additionally, this role allowed me to really be a leader both regionally and nationally around HIV-related legal issues. It was an amazing experience.” From there, Eric moved on to the Equality Foundation of Georgia as an HIV Policy Organizer and then was promoted in April 2019 to Deputy Executive Director of the Organization. “In the role as Deputy Executive Director, I oversee all day-to-day operations and develop and manage our advocacy activities. I also work with the executive director and the board to develop and implement the organization’s strategic plan. I help to drive up support and also build relationships in the community.”

In recent years, Eric was selected as one of Georgia's Top 40 Leaders Under 40. In the article about Eric’s selection it was noted that Eric has dedicated his career to fighting for equality for all Georgians. Eric himself notes that “It is an important time in our state and our country to protect LGBTQ people, immigrants, and people of color. I am part of a movement creating equality for these communities. My law school experience and Pace in particular has played such a critical role in my leadership development and also in helping to carve out the work that I'm doing. I am definitely a proud alumnus.”

In late 2020, Eric was awarded a prestigious 2020 Soros Justice Fellowship. His goal through the Fellowship was to build a nationwide network of Black HIV movement lawyers to protect, defend, and support people living with HIV. As a part of this work, Eric is co-authoring a first-of-its-kind report with the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, on the impact of HIV criminal laws on Black communities. When Eric was awarded the Fellowship, he noted that “[m]ost of us go to law school with the desire to be agents of change. However, over time, that goal gets diminished. This fellowship lets me fulfill the promise for which I decided to attend law school - to use my legal training to empower, protect and defend marginalized Black communities. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve others, and excited to stand with my fellowship cohort and previous cohorts to advance change.”