JJ Sharpe – 2024 NLG Student Honoree

1. When were you first introduced to the Guild?

I was first introduced to the Guild when I first entered law school. I was struggling with reconciling the desire I have for change and the way the law was structured. So much of first-year classes are taught in a manner that the “law is the law” no matter who it hurts. National Lawyers Guild helped show me that there are mechanisms we can use to fight inequalities. The members of the Guild helped educate me on what steps we as law students can do to help advocate for change and what it means to be a “people’s lawyer.” The Guild helped remind me why I wanted to be an attorney in the first place and gave me a voice to advocate for change.

2. What activities with the Guild have you organized and/or participated in?

I am currently president of the UMass campus chapter.

As a member of the Guild, I have organized a variety of events on campus dedicated to social change. I organized a panel of juvenile law professionals discussing the School to Prison Pipeline. I helped organize a variety of movie screenings with facilitated discussions centered around workplace discrimination, lack of access to women’s healthcare, and sexual assault.  In October, I organized a “Mental Health Litigation Panel” where students were able to learn more about the roles that racism and bias play in mental health proceedings.  I have attended “legal observer” and “Know your Rights” trainings put on for our students. For the next semester, I have been actively organizing events dedicated to educating the student body on the problems with mass incarceration.

  3. How has being a member of the Guild impacted your time in law school?       

Being a member of the National Lawyers Guild has allowed me to learn more about the roles attorneys play in advocating for change. I have gotten to meet so many individuals who are doing amazing work in the field as well as increase my knowledge of the systemic problems within our society.  National Lawyers Guild has taught me how imperative it is for individuals within the legal system to have adequate representation in all matters.   The mission of the Guild has been what pointed me toward pursuing a career in juvenile defense. My future career goal is to fight for those individuals who have been marginalized: a mission that the National Lawyers Guild has held so closely.

 4. How do you plan to incorporate the Guild’s mission into your legal career?      

I feel so blessed to have been a part of this organization and can not wait to continue the mission as I continue further in my professional career.