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Emily Derstine Friesen, '16

Becoming a Champion for Immigrants’ Rights — Student Success Story

Emily Derstine Friesen, Class of 2016

Before law school, Emily Derstine Friesen had worked as a legal assistant at the non-profit Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition through the AmeriCorps program, and she’d also gained experience as a paralegal at a law firm that focuses on immigration law.

But during her 1L summer, Emily’s fellowship with Friends of Farmworkers provided an immersion into immigration and labor law that still managed to surprise her.

“It was eye opening,” said Emily, one of four Kline School of Law students who received a prestigious fellowship from the Peggy Browning Fund in 2014.

Through the fellowship, she helped carnival workers as well as those who toil at horse farms, poultry plants and Kennett Square, Pa.’s massive mushroom industry address issues from hazardous working conditions to unpaid wages to physical abuse by employers.

In some instances, she said, workers from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who had arrived in the U.S. lawfully had their wages illegally reduced, but felt powerless to do anything because they’d overstayed their visas.

The experience laid a sturdy foundation for the career she would begin after graduation, working for the Console Mattiacci firm that represents workers in employment matters.

Less than a year after earning her JD, Emily served as co-counsel in an age discrimination case that won a record-setting $51.56 million verdict for her client.