Public interest lawyer closes 2018 with multiple successes.


Byline: Barry Bridges

The final in a series of profiles honoring RILW's 2018 Lawyers of the Year. The profiles appear in the issues of Dec. 17, 24 and 31.

In the past year, the Rhode Island Center for Justice has continued its advocacy on behalf of low-income clients, remaining true to its original focus on the challenges that they may confront in housing, utility protections and fair wages.

But the nonprofit in 2018 also partnered with local organizations in expanding its reach into other areas such as public education and Medicaid policy.

Orchestrating the myriad efforts of the three-year-old public interest law firm is the seemingly indefatigable Jennifer L. Wood, who as its executive director fills the dual roles of running a nonprofit while also managing the legal work of the center's staff and its cohort of public interest fellows, law students and interns.

"I consider it a privilege to be doing this work," Wood says. "This is what I always wanted to do. When I went to college, I knew that the reason I was going into higher education and then into law school was so that, at some point, I might be lucky enough to have a job where I could have this kind of impact."

[box type="shadow" align="alignright" width="310px" ]Some final thoughts from Jennifer Wood

Highlight of her legal career so far: "I consider the privilege of being in my current role as the apotheosis of my career, a very inspiring part of which is getting to know many of the individuals we are trying to help. But one of my proudest accomplishments was working to implement the Affordable Care Act in Rhode Island, which really spanned three gubernatorial administrations. It's succeeding here, and it's satisfying to have played a role, however modest, in the very contested implementation of probably the most important change in federally supported health care in my lifetime."

On what keeps her up at night: "It's just making sure this center is here in five or 10 years to continue with our very important work. I really care deeply about the issues we take on, and while that work is intellectually challenging and substantively difficult, I also do a lot to manage and sustain this small nonprofit, such as fundraising and supervising law students to help ensure they have a meaningful experience here. All of the administrative and organizational duties are not insignificant, and sometimes that keeps me up at night."

On maintaining a work/life balance: "Although my family might call...

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