“Micah 6:8 states what God requires of us: To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him,” says Hamilton. “As a Christian, I want my personal and professional life to reflect these principles. I have found that I can put my faith into practice even as a law student by using my legal training to serve those in need.”
Hamilton’s desire to serve led her to a new Durham-based nonprofit organization called JusticeMatters. Founded in 2009 by Libby Magee ’08, the organization aims to deliver legal services and education to underserved communities through partnerships with churches and nonprofits in Durham. Member attorneys and law students come from a variety of churches and denominations (and students are from Duke, UNC, and NCCU law schools), but they share a goal of using their education and skills to serve others.
“I co-founded JusticeMatters with several local attorneys, law students and friends, including Andrea, who recognized that many of our neighbors face legal issues that are socially, psychologically and financially debilitating, but lack the resources and voice to overcome these issues.,” says Magee, who is an associate at Parker Poe in Raleigh. “We learned that no local organization existed to meet these legal needs from a holistic, Gospel-centered framework, and that existing legal aid organizations, while providing excellent services, are under-resourced and restricted to certain clientele and cases.”
To help fill the gap, JusticeMatters has built partnerships with the Durham Rescue Mission, Duke Law’s Veteran’s Project, Reality Ministries, and others to host several legal clinics and educational programs for the community. Through the clinics, volunteer attorneys provide on-site legal advice and referrals for ongoing legal needs. JusticeMatters is also working to create a network of local attorneys who will accept pro bono referrals.
As a member of JusticeMatters’ law student advisory board, Hamilton is responsible for coordinating law student volunteers to handle client intake and assist attorneys with client consultation and referrals during the clinics.
“What we really want to do is fulfill the counseling niche of being a lawyer,” says Hamilton, who is pursuing a JD and a master’s degree in public policy. “We are a listening ear. If they want to talk about a traffic issue, we’ll give them the forum to do it. If they want us to pray for them, we’ll do it.”
Hamilton says her participation in JusticeMatters has been a tremendous learning experience. Clients seek help with everything from landlord-tenant issues and traffic violations to immigration law and child-custody disputes; in addition, Hamilton helped Magee research and create a guidebook on major issues in poverty law and relevant North Carolina statutes. She’s also learned a lot about what it takes to operate and sustain a small nonprofit.
“Seeing how everything I’ve learned in my classes plays out, working with the attorneys who do it day to day — it has been a really neat experience,”
A graduate of Duke University, Hamilton taught middle school for four years in Helena, Ark., through Teach for America before coming to law school. She says JusticeMatters has helped her continue to align her faith and career, and she plans to seek similar service opportunities in the fall when she moves to Tennessee for a two-year clerkship with the chief federal district judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
“I’ve always had a heart for service,” she says. “At the end of the day, faith is a driving force behind what I do, from the classes I choose to the career path I take. I am looking for the best way to use the gifts I’ve been given.”