Hannah Atkinson '24

Community Builder

Growing up in Colorado and spending much of her free time summiting mountains (“14ers” to be exact!), Hannah Atkinson did not know she wanted to attend law school until two months before the cutoff for applications for the year. “I was living in Perth, Australia right before I decided to apply to law school and started attending. I was never particularly interested in the field of law itself, but when I thought about it more, I saw it as a really powerful means to affect policy and have an actual, tangible impact on big issues.”

Now, a rising 2L at Haub Law, recently, Hannah was selected for a prestigious 2022 Rural Summer Legal Corps (RSLC) Student Fellowship. The Rural Summer Legal Corps is a partnership between the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and Equal Justice Works that supports dedicated law students, like Hannah, who want to spend their summer addressing pressing legal issues facing rural communities. Participants (called Student Fellows) have the unique opportunity to explore their passion for public interest while gaining valuable legal skills and experience at LSC-funded civil legal aid organizations. “I found out about this opportunity through the PILC career fair. I will spend the summer working with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. During this time, I hope to strengthen my skills in research and writing, as well as grow in communicating directly with clients from various backgrounds,” said Hannah.

“At Equal Justice Works, we are committed to building a pipeline of passionate public interest leaders who can ensure equal justice is a reality for more people,” said Brooke Meckler, director of law school engagement and advocacy at Equal Justice Works. “We are excited to have Hannah join our Rural Summer Legal Corps and look forward to supporting her work to combat housing instability for tenants of mobile parks.” The selection process to participate in the program is very competitive and Hannah was one of 40 law students selected to serve in the program from 333 applicants. During her time at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Hannah will help launch a project to identify with tenants of mobile parks who are at risk of homelessness, have been living with illegal and inhabitable conditions, or have been subjected to other illegal practices.

“When I was volunteering with a largely non-English speaking community in Colorado, the #1 challenge most of them faced was housing instability. It’s an issue that overshadows every other challenge, because you can’t start resolving issues like employment or illness if you’re consumed with worrying where you’ll sleep at night,” stated Hannah. “I came to law school with the desire to use whatever skills I learn to make a positive impact on the environment and also to provide assistance to indigent communities. After law school, I would love to return my home state of Colorado and start my legal career there, working at the intersection of environmental law and human rights.”

With her fellowship coming to a close, Hannah's experience as a Rural Summer Legal Corps Fellow has exceeded her expectations. "I’ve learned quite a bit this summer both about the state of housing law in general, and about the struggle of finding suitable housing and staying housed for indigent individuals and families. It was an honor to work with such high-quality attorneys who genuinely care about their clients. My most exciting summer project was spearheading a new project to create and present a 3-part Know Your Rights series on manufactured home park tenants' rights. The series will be saved and recirculated by Legal Services of the Hudson Valley well into the future. It felt amazing to have a real, tangible impact on the organization so early in my legal experience."