About the Fellowship
The Mike Lee Fellowship in Criminal Justice is presented twice each year to people who have (or have had) criminal records who aspire to a career in criminal justice or community organizing in Philadelphia and have demonstrated a commitment to community and to social equity. It provides a stipend to the recipient who will work 8-10 hours per week for six months in the offices of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE). Mike Lee Fellows will work with clients, arrange and lead community education programs, and conduct outreach to communities whose members have been impacted by criminal record histories; and will have the opportunity to meet Mr. Lee and his colleagues in the DA’s and Public Defender’s Offices. After their Fellowship period ends, they will benefit from the legal knowledge and analysis they have acquired, and are expected to serve as resources for organizing their communities around criminal justice issues. They will also be eligible to serve on the Steering Committee for PLSE’s Pardons Project.
The Mike Lee Fellowship is one of very few offered to people with criminal record histories to work in the field of criminal justice. The Fellowship is named in honor of Mike Lee, a criminal defense lawyer who was a co-founder of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity and served as its founding Executive Director from its founding in 2010 until January 2018, when he was appointed Director of Legislation and Government Affairs for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Founding Executive Director Mike Lee
A practicing human rights attorney and member of the inaugural class of Drexel University’s Thomas Kline School of Law, Mike Lee agreed to serve as PLSE’s inaugural Executive Director in 2010. As managing attorney for PLSE’s Criminal Record Expungement Project, Mike trained hundreds of pro bono attorneys across Pennsylvania, organized hundreds of community education events in the five-county area, and argued thousands of expungement and redaction petitions in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, achieving a success rate of over 95%. Responding to a request from the Lieutenant Governor, Mike became one of the creators of “Pathways to Pardons,” the statewide initiative that is open to all ex-offenders and specifically targeted on veterans and those in recovery, which has become a national model.
Mr. Lee received several awards for his cutting-edge legal work with PLSE and his service to the community. In 2013, Mike was named Diverse Attorney of the Year from the Legal Intelligencer, and received the F. Sean Peretta Service Award from the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association. In 2014 he was named one of Drexel’s 40 under 40 as being one of Dexel’s “most interesting, entrepreneurial and creative young graduates” for his work with PLSE. In 2015, he was recognized by the Barristers Association of Pennsylvania as the Outstanding Young Attorney, by the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania with the La Justica Award, and by the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Excellence Award. Mike ended his leadership of PLSE in January 2018, when was tapped by Philadelphia’s newly-elected, reform-minded District Attorney to become the Director of Legislation and Government Affairs for the DA’s Office.
How to Apply
The Mike Lee Fellowship is funded by tax-deductible contributions made to PLSE through PayPal. Nominations by a judge, community leader, or non-profit leader are strongly encouraged, but self-nominations will be accepted.