Ebreck’s journey of compassion leads to law degree

You could say that Andrea Ebreck’s legal career started with a bike ride.

As a freshman at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Ebreck, who will graduate today from the School of Law, decided to bike in the California AIDS ride. Not only must the riders pedal 600 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but they also must raise at least $3,000 in order to participate.

Andrea Ebreck (left) confers with Karen L. Tokarz, J.D., professor and executive director of the School of Law's nationally recognized clinical program.
Andrea Ebreck (left) confers with Karen L. Tokarz, J.D., professor and executive director of the School of Law’s nationally recognized clinical program. “Andrea has the brain of a lawyer and the heart of a social worker,” Tokarz says. “She is super intelligent and analytical, yet very compassionate.”

At first, Ebreck’s decision was prompted not so much by the cause as it was the challenge of doing something she could not envision herself doing physically (“I am not athletic at all,” she says), combined with the challenge of raising the money, which to many college students is a daunting sum.

But every journey begins with a single step, and this step of hers was pivotal.

“I trained for 10 months and did the whole ride,” Ebreck says. “And I raised $9,500. The chancellor of UCSB wrote me a personal check for $500. This experience opened me up to how willing people are to help you for a good cause. I realized all you have to do is ask.”

From there, Ebreck’s commitment to a variety of social justice issues, particularly HIV/AIDS, grew steadily until it was only another small step to consider law school.

“I never actually imagined practicing law,” Ebreck says. “It was more a matter of getting a law degree to help me in nonprofit management or lobbying.”

School of Law

Ebreck, an only child who grew up in California, had intended to stay in California for law school until she received Washington University’s recruiting material in the mail.

She was pleasantly surprised to find that, with Washington University’s generous scholarship funding, it cost essentially the same as attending a University of California law school as an in-state resident.

“It’s pretty cool to have the option of attending an excellent, small, private law school with great student-teacher ratios,” Ebreck marvels.

So Ebreck left California for St. Louis, but her journey was just beginning. After her first year here, Ebreck went all the way to South Africa for a public interest internship made possible by a $5,000 stipend through the School of Law’s Summer Public Interest Stipend Program.

There she worked for a human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO), educating people with HIV/AIDS about their legal rights regarding their medical treatment, employment and estate planning.

“It was eye-opening in so many ways,” Ebreck says. “I could see how lawyers can help people in their lives and how the principles I had learned in my first-year classes could be applied to help people.

“I left St. Louis still thinking I would use law in a different career and came back from South Africa wanting to practice law. That was the point at which my career goal shifted for me.”

Ebreck’s expectations about law school had shifted as well. She had expected to dislike law school, but she was surprised to find that she loved it, particularly the clinical courses. In two different clinics, Ebreck helped HIV-positive clients get both Medicaid and Social Security benefits they had been denied.

“These benefits are the life-blood for people who are too sick to work,” she says.

“Andrea has the brain of a lawyer and the heart of a social worker,” observes Karen L. Tokarz, J.D., professor and executive director of the law school’s nationally recognized clinical program, and the coordinator of the South Africa internship project.

“She is super intelligent and analytical, yet very compassionate.”

In her spare time, Ebreck was an associate editor of the Washington University Law Quarterly and president of Outlaw, a student group committed to supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

And now that she has completed her education, Ebreck is moving on again, this time to Columbus, Ohio. Ebreck is joining the firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, where she hopes to practice health-care law.

The firm has a strong reputation for mentoring young lawyers and for its commitment to pro bono work, so Ebreck is very pleased about where her journey has taken her.

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