Ropes & Gray Announces “Ropes Impact Fellowship” to Advance Public Service Commitment

May 30, 2023

Ropes & Gray today announced the creation of the Ropes Impact Fellowship, a public-interest fellowship supported through nonprofit Equal Justice Works, a longtime partner of the firm in advancing public interest work. The Ropes-named fellowship follows the firm’s longstanding tradition of funding public interest fellowships through Equal Justice Works by using fee awards from significant public interest litigation.

“Ropes & Gray is proud of our longstanding relationship with Equal Justice Works and our support of its fellows. We are especially proud this year to kick off the first Ropes Impact Fellowship,” said Chris Conniff, pro bono co-chair and partner at Ropes & Gray. “The fellowships complement Ropes & Gray’s mission to ‘practice with purpose’— a commitment to making a positive difference for our clients, our communities, and our own people.”

Alexis PicardThe 2023 Ropes Impact Fellow is Alexis Picard, a graduate of Harvard Law School. During her fellowship, Alexis will work with attorneys from the ACLU of Illinois’ Corrections Reform Project, as well as other juvenile justice allies and advocates, to file lawsuits against some of the most egregious juvenile detention centers in the state. These lawsuits will seek relief for the inhumane and unconstitutional conditions of confinement that children as young as 10 years old experience at these juvenile detention centers. Alexis will seek input from system-impacted youth, their families, and other community-based organizations to ensure her litigation strategies meet community needs and complement other advocacy efforts.

Her work intersects with pro bono litigation brought by Ropes & Gray’s own lawyers, including against the State of Iowa over failures to provide mental health care for children, and, separately, prevailing for a plaintiff class of juveniles incarcerated at the Boys State Training School in Eldora, Iowa. Plaintiffs alleged the school had denied them mental health treatment and subjected them to excessive punishment, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Beyond the courtroom, Alexis will also use non-litigation strategies, such as a public education campaign, to inform the public, press, and political stakeholders about the conditions in these facilities.

“Reforms to juvenile incarceration practices, which are excessively punitive and dehumanizing, are desperately needed,” Alexis said. “I’m committed to working with juvenile justice advocates, system-impacted children, and their families to ensure that children are afforded their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”

“Equal Justice Works provides a platform for young lawyers to make significant changes in our communities and I look forward to watching Alexis’ proposal come to life and help so many young people in need,” Chris said.

Doug Hallward-Driemeier, litigation & enforcement partner, said: “Our announcement today represents Ropes & Gray’s long-term institutional commitment to being part of the change we need.The Ropes Impact Fellowship will be a force-multiplier for years to come. We look forward to seeing Alexis excel.”

“We are incredibly excited to welcome yet another Equal Justice Works Fellow through the generous support of theRopesImpact Fellowship,” said Verna Williams, CEO of Equal Justice Works. “Through her project, Alexis will increase access to justice for Illinois youth in juvenile detention centers, and we know this important work will make a lasting impact on the issue of juvenile justice andonthe broader community.”

Ropes & Gray has already sponsored seven Equal Justice Works Fellows. Fellows include:

  • Faith Barksdale, The Innocence Project. Faith’s project focused on driving reform of prosecutorial oversight in targeted jurisdictions nationwide by reviewing and adopting best practices to prevent wrongful convictions.
  • Jenna Lauter, co-sponsored with Advance, works with the New York Civil Liberties Union. Jenna’s project is focused on addressing family separation and surveillance through the child welfare system.
  • Bobby Hunter, ACLU Racial Justice Program. Bobby’s project focused on implementing replicable state campaigns to reform court debt collection practices through strategic litigation and community partnerships.
  • Anna Nguyen, co-sponsored with Pfizer, Greater Boston Legal Services. Anna’s project focused on addressing the ongoing issue of exploitation of Vietnamese immigrants in the Greater Boston workforce.
  • Corina Scott, Center for Appellate Litigation in New York. Corina’s project provides post-conviction legal services and legislative advocacy on behalf of incarcerated survivors of domestic violence who are eligible for resentencing or a new trial in New York state.
  • Brett Stark, co-sponsored with Pfizer, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. Brett’s represented unaccompanied immigrant youth in family and immigration court, and collaborated with health care professionals to create a comprehensive plan to address the diverse needs of youth survivors of torture, trafficking, and violence.
  • Bianca Tylek, Urban Justice Center. Bianca worked to eliminate financial incentives associated with the outsourcing of prison services to private organizations.