Spotlight on 2014 Legal Fellow Whitney Knox

Whitney.headshotSpotlight on 2014 Legal Fellow Whitney Knox

WHITNEY KNOX, Seattle University School of Law ’13, was recently named the Urban Youth Justice/RITA Project Legal Fellow for the Racial Impact Transparency & Accountability Project (RITA Project) of the Urban Youth Justice Initiative. The fellowship allows rising 3L and post-graduate students the opportunity to conduct substantive legal research in the area of youth justice and civil rights and shared authorship of a subsequent report published to the community stakeholders, including policymakers and legal advocates.

The RITA Project conducts rigorous detailed research and analysis of public institutional policies and practices to identify patterns of disparate racial/ethnic impact and identify key systemic points that produce disparate outcomes for youth and young adults of color.  The research goal is that the transparency and awareness from exposing systemic disparate impact will promote accountability for multi-level systemic change by identifying unique & distinct advocacy opportunities at different systemic stages and/or youth contact points. Upon completion, all reports generated from the UYJ/RITA Project Fellowship are made available online at: http://www.UrbanYouthJustice.org

As the Winter/Spring 2014 Law Fellow, Knox focused her research and analysis on the racial impact of fare enforcement in public transportation, including assessing the risk for racial disproportionality through application of the current fare enforcement rules, regulations, policies and practices.

“Whitney was given the purpose of the research project with discretion to articulate the means and parameters of her work, specifically to encourage her own vision, and Whitney took that discretion and ran with it. Whitney has demonstrated amazing leadership and self-initiative that laid a significant foundation and made a stellar contribution to our racial justice work that other RITA research associates will benefit from and collaboratively build upon,” said Ernest Saadiq Morris, director of Urban Youth Justice.

After completing her Fellowship, Knox is moving on to a staff attorney position with the Georgia Legal Services Program providing legal services to underrepresented populations in SW Georgia.

We talked to Whitney about her background and her fellowship experience with UYJ’s RITA Project:

Why did you pursue the legal Fellow opportunity with the UYJ/RITA Project?

I pursued the fellowship with the RITA project because of my interest in helping to uncover inequity issues in the Seattle and King County area. As a native Seattleite, the systemic issues that the UYJ and RITA projects address are of great concern to me and in some cases are issues that have directly impacted my life or the lives of those close to me.

How was your experience as the UYJ/RITA Project Legal Fellow?

I appreciate the time that I spent working as a UYJ/RITA Fellow. I was given the opportunity to research pertinent issues that were interesting and important to me. As a post-graduate Fellow, my work allowed me to put into practice skills that I learned and developed throughout law school. While I was given clear parameters for my research, I was also afforded broad discretion to put together a research plan that worked for me. Furthermore, the legal issues that I researched, although specific to Washington and 9th Circuit jurisprudence, are certainly not unique to this jurisdiction. My research set a firm foundation for me to build on as I continue to work in public interest lawyering throughout the United States. Working with UYJ was a great culmination to my formal education and start to my legal career.

Do you have any advice to student who are pursuing public interest legal careers?

My advice is to take advantage of experiential learning opportunities as much as possible. It was my experience that the courses I thought to be useful for the type of advocacy I wanted to do were offered infrequently and were difficult to get into when they were offered. As a result, through Seattle University’s Externship Program, I opted to spend a heavy majority of my third year in the field, working with attorneys and clients on real legal issues. This practice and exposure to the law and legal issues faced by target populations helped me to narrow my legal interests as well as provided a forum where I could practice and further develop new lawyering skills. I feel that It was these experiences that made me a competitive job applicant and has allowed me to hit the ground running as I begin my career in public interest lawyering.

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