Stephanie Everett (J.D. ’02) was named executive director of Lawyers for Equal Justice, a new incubator program for newer lawyers to start innovative, socially conscious law practices providing affordable services to low- and moderate-income clients.
“I’m really excited about this program,” said Everett, who graduated cum laude and is a career advisor and guest lecturer at Georgia State Law. “We are on the forefront of thought on how a law firm should operate.”
The idea for an incubator was put forward first by then Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the Supreme Court of Georgia, said Visiting Professor Bucky Askew, who chairs the board of directors for Lawyers for Equal Justice. After meeting with Hunstein, the deans from Georgia’s five American Bar Association-approved law schools agreed to collaborate and contribute financially to the 501(c)(3) approved nonprofit. The State Bar’s Board of Governors voted to provide three years of funding.
The program’s goal is to expand legal services by developing market-based models through which lawyers can sustainably provide affordable services to clients, Askew said.
“Right now 80 percent of Americans cannot afford an attorney,” Everett said. “They earn too much to qualify for legal aid, yet don’t make enough to pay for legal services. Lawyers participating with Lawyers for Equal Justice will offer reasonable pricing to clients while making a profit.”
In the 18-month program, each attorney will have his or her own firm housed under the incubator’s umbrella. They will share an office space in Peachtree Center, outfitted with all the technology needed to run a successful business, including robust software. Participants will receive extensive training, expert coaching, mentoring and free ICLE classes. The training will focus on business development, including new fee models and how to utilize technology to provide cost-effective service.
“It’s always difficult to start your own law firm, especially right after law school,” Everett said. “There is real value in being part of this community, which will provide access to information, tools and training they wouldn’t otherwise have. They will be guided every step of the way on how to set up and run their law practice to deliver top notch legal services to their clients.”
As the executive director, Everett will be readily available to share the wealth of knowledge she gained in starting her firm in 2007 and her business, Stephanie Everett Consulting LLC. “I learned the hard way and I hope to help them not make the same mistakes I did,” said Everett, a certified executive coach.
“Stephanie’s experience and enthusiasm are a perfect fit,” Askew said. “She has not only been a big firm and small firm lawyer, she has been engaged in training and supporting young lawyers in starting successful solo practices.”
Everett said she is passionate about her role as a mentor, and also about the program’s mission. “I went to law school to help people—I think a lot of people go with the goal of doing public interest law, but when they graduate they end up taking jobs with law firms because they perceive that’s what they need to do to fulfill financial obligations. That’s what I did,” said Everett, who served as the auction chair for the Public Interest Law Association.
“At Lawyers for Equal Justice, we’ll be providing an opportunity for people to really help this underserved population and make a living,” Everett said. “It’s the best of both worlds and will make a substantial impact on people who need it.”
This is the first incubator program in Georgia. There are similar programs across the country, but Lawyers for Equal Justice is the first to be a collaborative effort between the state’s law schools and the State Bar, Everett said. “We are breaking ground and are setting the model for rest of the country,” Everett said.
The program will begin Monday, April 4, and applications are due by Friday, Feb. 12. Applicants must have graduated from one of Georgia’s five ABA-approved law schools within the last three years, though exceptions may be made for candidates past the three-year mark.
Participants will be required to provide a minimum of 40 hours of pro bono services per month and to meet as a group regularly. There is no cost the first six months. After that, participants pay $500 per month (which includes rent for shared office space) for six months, and then $750 per month for the last six months.
Lawyers participating should be committed to developing practices providing quality legal services that are accessible and affordable. Learn more at lawyersforequaljustice.com or contact LawyersForEqualJustice@gmail.com.