Alumni News

As a law student, Emma Hilbert, L’15, was eager to serve the public. Through her engagement with the Carrico Center for Pro Bono and Public Service, she sifted through the many intriguing options that were available for pro bono work to find a program focusing on something less familiar to her: Richmond Law’s Immigration Assistance Project.

“It was something I’d never done before," she said. “It was fulfilling and interesting to learn more about the immigration system.”

Hilbert’s student experience led her to apply for a Bridge to Practice Fellowship, a placement program for recent graduates who are interested in pursuing careers in public service. She put her fellowship to good use with the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, where she had previously worked — first, as an intern with the support of a Summer Public Service Fellowship, then as part of a clinical placement in the organization’s Just Children program — and later transitioning to housing and eviction representation.

When it came time for a more permanent placement, “I knew what kind of work I wanted to do," Hilbert said, "but not necessarily where." Although she’d already taken and passed the Virginia Bar Exam, she decided to cast a wide net, applying to public service positions throughout the country.

Hilbert was hired by the Texas Civil Rights Project as a staff attorney, a role focused on veteran assistance, voting rights, and racial and economic justice. She finds the work rewarding, relishing being able to "fulfill a need that very few groups are able to,” such as her organization’s representation of landowners in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Those clients are at risk of having their land seized for construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Many landowners are low-income and don’t necessarily know about their rights in the eminent-domain arena,” Hilbert said. “And it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to represent them, and to help them stand up for their land and their home.”