Alumni Spotlight: Iveliz Crespo '14
Rutgers Law students can obtain tremendous lawyering experience by taking part in the various clinics and pro bono projects that provide legal services to those in need. Most of the aspiring lawyers who take part in these programs, however, aren’t from the cities they largely serve and might be learning about the reality of poverty, and possibilities, for the first time. But not Iveliz Crespo.
Born into a single-parent household in Camden, where she graduated from Brimm Medical Arts High School, the 2014 Rutgers Law alumna knows intimately of the city’s well-documented challenges, but even more so she knows – and is proud to say – that Camden is where she and her family call home.
“I came close to quitting my first year,” recalls Crespo, of acclimating to the rigorous academic demand of law school and questioning if it was for her.
Thankfully, Crespo’s immense passion to help “every protected class you can think of” was stronger than even she might have anticipated. Ultimately, this passion inspired her classmates and her professors, and put Crespo on track for success at Rutgers Law.
Sandra Simkins, a distinguished clinical professor at Rutgers Law School, where she directs the Children’s Justice Clinic in Camden, was immediately impressed when meeting “Ivy,” who served as a clinic intern in 2012.
“Ivy possesses a passion for social justice issues and is an admired leader at the law school on pro bono issues. She is not afraid to speak truth to power,” notes Simkins.
Rutgers Clinical Professor of Law Sarah Ricks, who taught Crespo in her Civil Rights Litigation course, joins Simkins in praising Crespo.
“Iveliz gives us hope for the future of the legal profession. She brings with her a vast amount of experience that is relevant to numerous policy issues. Hers is a voice that needs to be heard,” says Ricks, who with Simkins, nominated Crespo for the David Dolgenos Memorial Award, which honors students who have overcome personal obstacles in the path of a J.D.
A native Spanish speaker, Crespo left law school, energetic to represent the people she cares about most, the community that raised her. “I wanted to graduate from here and work here, representing the people I want to, the people of Camden.”
Now as staff attorney for the Migrant Farmworker Project at South Jersey Legal Services, Inc. Crespo says she has her dream job.
“I am fortunate enough to have a job doing what I aspired to do. At South Jersey Legal Services (SJLS) I represent farmworkers, a group that is often exploited and abused. Many of these workers are victims of labor trafficking, wage theft, and are often required to work and live under unhealthy or dangerous conditions,” she says. “I chose to become an attorney because I wanted to fight against the exploitation that people living in poverty often face and my current employment at SJLS has provided an avenue to do that.”
Rutgers Law, she says, has been pivotal in her professional success.
“The opportunities that were available at Rutgers helped me decide the direction of my career path. Prior to attending law school, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer and I knew I wanted to use my law degree to help people in need. However, I quickly came to realize that when you are providing legal services there is no shortage of people in need,” she notes. “Through various organizations, activities and classes I realized that I wanted to be a public interest attorney and that I wanted to practice labor and employment law.”
The relationships cultivated through Rutgers have continued to be a support to Crespo.
“Rutgers was the right choice for me because it has dedicated professors that were invested in my academic and professional growth,” she adds. “I still maintain strong relationships with many of them and they are always willing to lend their expertise when needed.”
Not just faculty members keep Crespo connected professionally and personally; Rutgers Law’s alumni network has also been a loyal and robust community.
“I am constantly surprised at the number of alumni that reach out to me to either share information on trainings that might interest me or to refer cases,” she continues. “Additionally, as a young attorney I am grateful to have a network of people that I can reach out to with questions. I am happy that Rutgers has such a strong and connected alumni base.”
To those considering law school or to law students just starting their own legal educations, especially those who might come from distressed cities like her own, she says to stick it out.
“You won’t know if law school is for you until you figure out what you love and what is worth fighting for. If you want to be an advocate, you have to tap into your passion.”