New Chances After a Year of Uncertainty

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By Lexi Heinz, ’22

With the entirety of my 2L year at University at Buffalo School of Law still being online, I decided to move back to Houston, Texas for the year and spend time with my family. After spending my undergraduate degree as a student-athlete, the unexpected opportunity to be home and with my family was greatly welcomed. As I spent my days in online school I found myself trying to apply for summer legal positions back in Buffalo. However, I ran into several roadblocks when most employers wanted me to interview in their offices. While I had originally planned on returning to Buffalo for the summer, the pandemic offered me the chance to see this as an opportunity to intern in another area while school and life remained mostly virtual. 

I decided to apply to non-profit positions closer to home. I have always known that I wanted to work in the public interest sector, so I quickly began searching for openings with public interest offices here in Houston. I stumbled upon Disability Rights Texas during my search. At first, I only placed the organization on my potential lists of possible organizations to consider. After all, the position required knowledge and interest in employment law and transactional work, both areas of which I never had truly considered. However, once I looked deeper into the organization, I decided to apply. 

The mission of Disability Rights Texas is to advocate for equal access for people with disabilities. This mission really stuck with me, and I felt I could not pass up the potential opportunity to serve in this organization. I am forever grateful that I took a leap of faith and applied for the position. I am also so appreciative that my Human Rights Fellowship allowed me to pursue this opportunity while also being able to support myself financially. 

As much as I love my hometown in Houston, I am often greatly disappointed by how the Texas government continues to disadvantage the most vulnerable populations. The opportunity to be part of an organization that seeks to challenge these laws and discrimination by the Texas government seemed like something I could not pass up. I have always felt that utilizing our legal knowledge and privilege to help those who are consistently discriminated against is our duty as attorneys. I am beyond thankful that Disability Rights Texas and the Buffalo Human Rights Law Center Fellowship provided me the opportunity to advance the interests of those who need it the most.

Disability Rights Texas provides legal representation and advocacy for Texans with a broad range of disabilities. The organization spends countless hours advocating for education, employment, health care, housing, civil rights, and voting rights for clients with disabilities. While I had never considered this area of law prior to my summer internship, I cannot imagine doing anything else now. I was able to spend my summer working directly with clients advocating for the protection of their housing, educational, voting, and employment rights. Additionally, I got to learn from several attorneys across multiple organizations about how to advance the protections and rights of people with disabilities. I was able to see first-hand how the law can be utilized to best advocate and effect change for marginalized populations. There has been nothing more rewarding than being able to give a client equal access to employment, education, and housing. I am deeply grateful to the donors who made this possible.

Although this past academic year presented many challenges, I am thankful it also led me to the internship in Houston at Disability Rights Texas. This opportunity allowed me to expand my legal knowledge and explore a new field of law. Without this summer fellowship, I never would have known I would be interested in disability rights. Thank you very much to the donors of the Professor Virginia A. Leary Human Rights Summer Fellowship at the University at Buffalo School of Law, as well as the School of Law’s Summer Public Interest Funding & Fellowship Program.

Name: Lexi Heinz, ’22

Name of Fellowship: Professor Virginia A. Leary Human Rights Summer Fellowship

Placement: Disability Rights Texas

Location: Houston, TX

One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “There has been nothing more rewarding than being able to give a client equal access to employment, education, and housing.”