UMass Law UMass Law: UMass Law students champion funding for civil legal aid

UMass Law UMass Law: UMass Law students champion funding for civil legal aid
UMass Law students champion funding for civil legal aid

Students and faculty participate in "Walk to the Hill" for the 8th consecutive year

Some members of the UMass Law team
UMass Law students joined MA attorneys and their law school peers to lobby for increased funding for civil legal aid in an event one student described as "an empowering and enriching experience."

On Thursday, January 25, 50 UMass Law students and Assistant Dean Julie Cahill "walked to the hill"—namely the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill—to lobby for civil legal aid funding in the Massachusetts state budget for fiscal year 2025.

And, for the 5th consecutive year, UMass Law won the "Highest Participation for a Law School Award" from the Equal Justice Coalition.

"We are fortunate at UMass Law to have so many individuals who study and work at the law school because of an abiding passion for justice, access, and opportunity," said Dean Sam Panarella.  "The incredible participation of our students at this year's Walk to the Hill event is one more example of our community living this mission of pursuing justice—a mission that our public law school was founded to serve."

"I am thrilled to attend Walk to the Hill each year with our law students and introduce them to the importance of civil legal aid," said Assistant Dean Julie Cahill. "When law students participate in this event and see the impact civil legal aid has on the lives of the clients who are served, they may one day become legal aid lawyers doing this critical work in our communities, fulfilling our mission to Pursue Justice."

Walk to the Hill is an annual event that gathers attorneys, law students, and advocates to urge their legislators to support civil legal aid by fully funding the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) line-item request. For fiscal year 2025, MLAC is asking the MA State Legislature for $55 million to support 16 civil legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth.

This is the 8th consecutive year UMass Law students and faculty have participated in the event hosted by the Equal Justice Coalition (EJC) and the first year that the event was held in person after being virtual for 3 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UMass Law students at MA State House
Some of the 50 UMass Law students who participated in this year's Walk to the Hill pose in the MA State House. The students met with lawmakers in their offices to lobby for civil legal aid funding.

Experience made a profound impact on participating UMass Law students

"Participating as a 'captain' leading my fellow students to 'Walk to the Hill' was an empowering and enriching experience," said Alise Greco, JD candidate '24 and president of the Delta Theta Phi Larkin Senate. "As we gathered in the beautiful halls of the Massachusetts State House, it was truly inspiring to see the legal community unite in a shared commitment to justice.

"I was particularly moved by this year's client speaker, Livia Gonzalez, whose powerful story about seeking the treatment she and her three children deserved in obtaining affordable housing earned her a standing ovation," Greco added. "When she spoke of her legal aid attorneys as the heroes of her plight against a hostile landlord, I felt a sense of pride in the profession and a desire to affect the same change in my own career someday."

Amaan Rahman, JD candidate '26 was grateful for the opportunity to participate. "It was my first time setting foot in this esteemed institution and the experience was truly inspiring. Witnessing attorneys and law students come together to lobby for a cause we wholeheartedly believe in was a beautiful and impactful moment. As an international student, I found it particularly enriching to be given the opportunity to participate in this event, allowing us to be part of something much bigger than ourselves."

UMass Law students at MA State House
As they visited the offices of state lawmakers, UMass Law students were inspired to join many law students and attorneys in advocating for a common goal—equal access to justice—and being "part of something much bigger than ourselves."

Inspiring speakers remind law students of the vital role attorneys play

UMass Law students heard from inspiring speakers who support increased funding for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, including clients whose lives have been transformed. According to the EJC, legal aid organizations provide essential representation and advice to help vulnerable citizens protect basic human needs for health, safety, and housing.

After hearing from speakers, UMass Law students walked to the State House on Beacon Hill and visited legislators' offices to advocate for funding.

"The breakfast at the Boston Bar Association set the tone for what was a powerful and inspiring day," said Rebecca Wood, JD candidate '26. "The highlight, for me, was meeting with Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa and Rep. Dan Sena. Both representatives took the time to meet with my group and address our concerns positively."

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The day's captains included 3Ls Alise Greco and Natalia Vargas, 2L Timothy Trocchio, and 1Ls Tyler Grant, Paul Riley, and Rebecca Wood.

"This day reminded me of the vital role attorneys play in ensuring access to justice and the responsibility we hold in giving everyone a chance to fight for what is right, especially when the system is stacked against them," Greco said. "Being part of this event was not only educational, but a reminder of the lives we can transform when each individual story or experience becomes a collective voice."

In addition to serving as a meaningful advocacy platform, Walk to the Hill was an excellent team-building experience, Rahman said. "Collaborating with fellow students from our school reinforced a sense of unity and purpose. It was heartening to see individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives working cohesively towards a common goal.

"I am grateful for the school's commitment to providing such enriching experiences, fostering both personal and professional growth." Rahman added. "Thank you for creating opportunities that extend beyond the classroom, preparing us to make a positive impact in the legal field and beyond."