Legal Career Pathways

Check Out LEE Member Lawyers Impacting their Communities

The injustice of educational inequity will not be solved by any one person, tactic, or arena of impact. It requires a concerted effort to change the laws and policies that have maintained the status quo for generations. After witnessing the inequity in the classroom and in their communities, many LEE members are called to serve as lawyers. Members are litigating cases, advancing policies, advising clients on impact, serving the needs of their clients, and seeking social justice.  

If you are interested in exploring different ways to use a JD, read more here. 

LEE members already have a rich history of making an impact in this way. Thousands of LEE member lawyers are making a difference with their legal skills – check out these eight below! Connect with them via LinkedIn to learn more or meet other LEE member lawyers on the TFA Alumni Directory

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Ashanta Evans Blackwell

After graduating from Mount Holyoke College, Ashanta Evans Blackwell began teaching with Teach For America in Greater New Orleans, her hometown. She taught fourth grade where she was the cheerleading coach and launched a Student Council program. While she always wanted to be an attorney, teaching solidified her desire to use her law degree to impact under-served communities and instilled a commitment to driving equality in all forms. She attended Vanderbilt University School of Law participating in the Public Interest Clinic. Currently, she is the Vice President, Deputy General Counsel at Teach For America where she manages the legal team that supports all of the legal functions for the organization. In her spare time, Ashanta continues to ensure we have systems that provide direct support for students. She is the current Board Chair for Gestalt Community Schools in Memphis, TN, serves on the Board of Trustees for Mount Holyoke College, and has served on the boards for the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, the College Initiative, and as tutor for the Chicago Lights Program.

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Jason Esteves

As a native Georgian, Jason serves as Board Chair and an at-large representative on the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education. He was elected in 2013 and has focused his efforts at promoting equity and improving the financial outlook of the school system. As an attorney and former educator, Jason is working to ensure every child in Atlanta Public Schools obtains an education that prepares them for college and career. Today, Jason serves as Vice President in the Legal Department at Equifax Inc., where he leads the handling of sensitive disputes and incidents, and investigations. He was an associate at the law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP after graduating from Emory University School of Law. Jason also serves on various boards of local non-profits, and believes that partnerships with nonprofits are vital to ensuring our children have the wraparound services they need to be able to focus on their education and development.

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Maritza Perez

Maritza is passionate about giving back to her community and has devoted most of her professional career to public service. As an undergraduate, she participated in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Internship Program and worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, where she conducted research on policy issues affecting Latinos. Then, Maritza joined Teach For America and was a fourth grade teacher in New Orleans. After these experiences, she decided to pursue a law degree to make a systemic policy impact, specifically on criminal justice issues. She is now the Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, DC where she leads the organization’s federal legislative agenda and strategy.

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Joanna Powell

Throughout Joanna’s career, she has worked as an advocate for students and families. After attending New York University School of Law, Joanna clerked in the US District Court in the Northern District in California. Soon after she worked as an Education Attorney and is currently serving as the staff attorney for the Oakland Unified School District. In this role, she was on a team of attorneys who successfully struck down California’s longtime teacher tenure and seniority protections in Vergara v. State of California. These protections, they argued, lead to ineffective teachers retaining employment, specifically in districts that serve low-income and minority students.

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Gary A. Crosby II

Gary is a trained litigator, who focuses on a variety of cases. But, he maintains an active pro-bono practice. He has worked on high-profile voting rights and education cases with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Educational Fund (LDF). As a part of the LDF team, he challenged Texas’ discriminatory voter identification law under the Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitution. He also worked on LDF’s Prepared to Vote project. Gary is passionate about combatting school segregation, in part because of his former students in New Orleans. He was a member of LDF’s trial team that successfully represented Black students in an ongoing school desegregation case, in which a federal court ultimately denied the city of Gardendale, Alabama’s plan to create a separate predominately white school district.

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Zahreen Ghaznavi

Zahreen is passionate about equity in the K-12 public education space, dedicating her career to achieving it. Prior to becoming a lawyer, she taught 5th grade in the southwest side of Chicago and for the U.S. Department of Education. As a lawyer, she worked as the Legal Counsel for Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City, where she continued to ensure all students have access to a high-quality education. Currently, Zahreen is a litigation associate at Jayaram Law. In her spare time, she serves on various youth and education-related non-profit boards.

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Julie Countiss

Julie’s experience teaching elementary school in the South Bronx ignited her passion for public service. She was an Assistant Harris County Attorney for many years where she worked to eliminate illicit massage parlors that harbor human trafficking. After being elected to the Texas First Court of Appeals, Justice Countiss was appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas to serve on the Children’s Commission – a judicial commission for children, youth, and families in Texas. She also serves on the Legislative Committee of the State Bar of Texas Judicial Selection. Additionally she has co-chaired many programs and conferences including the Houston Bar Association’s 2021 Civil Trial and Appellate Bench Bar Conference, the Membership Committee for the National Association of Women Judges, and the Color of Justice Program in Houston.

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Emily Wilson

Before pursuing her law degree, Emily was a high school social studies teacher in Baltimore. She has remained committed to working with students in both Baltimore and Washington, DC through a variety of legal education initiatives, including working as a student attorney in the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic, representing juveniles charged with misdemeanors in the District of Columbia, from intake through disposition. She now advises clients involved in all facets of commercial litigation and represents clients before multiple state and federal appellate courts. In her spare time, she serves as an advisory board member of Urban Energy Garden, a nonprofit that equips college students from underrepresented communities with opportunities to work in the energy and environmental sector. Additionally, Emily has partnered with the Legal Community and Venable to moderate a CLE to LEE members about student representatives on Boards of Education.

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Kandis Wood Jackson

Kandis is the At-Large Seat 7 representative on the Atlanta Board of Education. She also is a practicing attorney at the law firm of Alston & Bird LLP. An Atlanta native, Kandis graduated from Duke University in 2008 and returned to Atlanta to teach 6th Grade Social Studies at KIPP WAYS Academy. In 2013, Kandis earned her law degree from Harvard Law School and, again, returned to Atlanta to practice law. Kandis was elected to the Atlanta Board of Education in 2017. She is a member of the Young Lawyers Division Leadership Academy Class of 2016 and the LEAD Atlanta Class of 2017. Kandis also serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency and a member of the Board of Trustees of Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company.

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