Megan Durkee, a 2015 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, will advocate for Richmond-area youth involved in the juvenile justice system as the school’s 16th Powell Fellow.

Recipients of the Law School’s Powell Fellowship in Legal Services are selected annually through a competitive process. The fellowship awards $45,000 and benefits to a J.D. graduate to enhance the delivery of legal services to the poor under the sponsorship of a host public interest organization. The award is made for one year with the expectation that it will be renewed for a second year. Like other alumni pursuing public service careers, Powell Fellows are also eligible for the school's Loan Forgiveness Program.

After completing a two-year federal clerkship now underway with Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in the Eastern District of Virginia, Durkee will work with the Legal Aid Justice Center's JustChildren Program in Richmond starting in the fall. With four offices in Virginia, the Legal Aid Justice Center provides legal representation for low-income individuals in Central Virginia, the Richmond area and northern Virginia.

Durkee will provide direct representation to youth who have had contact with the juvenile justice system. For those who have been committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice, Durkee will ensure access to education, mental health and re-entry services.

"It's important to make sure that all kids are given a meaningful opportunity to succeed, especially in the face of substantial challenges," Durkee said.

The majority of youth who are incarcerated have significant trauma exposure, have been diagnosed with a mental disorder or require special education services, Durkee said.

For youth at risk of being committed, Durkee will advocate for services available under Virginia and federal law alongside the appointed defense counsel and present community alternatives to commitment.

Durkee is no stranger to working with youth. Before law school she taught science and special education at an alternative high school through Teach For America.

"Many of my students had contacts with the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and I saw how this involvement had negative and longstanding consequences," Durkee said.

While in law school, she interned with the JustChildren Program in Charlottesville and with the Juvenile Services Program of the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., working directly with court-involved youth in Virginia and D.C.

"Megan is committed to helping kids,” said Amanda Yale, director of public service for the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center. “She spent her three years in law school and two more in a clerkship honing her legal skills and gaining particular expertise so that she would be prepared for her life’s work — to improve the lives of kids involved in the juvenile justice system.

"Megan is extremely intelligent, compassionate and thoughtful. These three qualities make Megan the ideal candidate for a Powell Fellowship. I know she will go on to do great things for court-involved youth in Virginia."   

A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Durkee holds undergraduate degrees in economics and in political and social thought from the University of Virginia, and a master's in education from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia.

She served on the Virginia Law Review's editorial board, was a participant in the Program in Law and Public Service, was the membership director for the Public Interest Law Association student group, participated in Street Law, and was a member of the Child Advocacy Clinic and the Criminal Defense Clinic while in Law School.

Past Powell Fellows

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.