Of the varied opportunities for legal practice at Villanova Law, many students choose to engage in public interest activities. Over the course of his Villanova Law career, Omeed Firouzi ’18 has done just that. For his devotion to public interest service, Firouzi was named a 2018-2020 American Bar Association Section of Taxation Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellow.
The Fellowship, which supports Firouzi’s work as an attorney in Philadelphia Legal Assistance’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, will begin in September 2018. PLA is a non-profit organization that provides free legal assistance to low-income individuals and families in Philadelphia.
Firouzi’s Fellowship will focus on worker misclassification, which can cause workers to miss out on benefits and rights, as well as to pay extra taxes. Over half a million workers in Pennsylvania are misclassified. Firouzi saw the effects of the issue firsthand when he worked during law school as an extern in PLA’s Low-Income Tax Clinic.
“Being misclassified causes workers to pay two times the taxes. Not only are they responsible for paying the employee tax, but they pay the employer tax as well,” explained Firouzi. “My project focuses on assisting in challenging their misclassification through IRS mediation and, potentially, in court. I will also be educating the community and empowering workers to challenge misclassification.”
Throughout his Villanova Law experience, Firouzi engaged himself in public interest based opportunities, serving on the Board of the Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) and earning a PIFP Fellowship in summer 2016. He also served on the Board of the Pro Bono Society, sought out tax law experience with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and worked closely with the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation.
Firouzi fondly recalls his time working in the Clinic for Asylum, Refugee & Emigrant Services (CARES). He saw great success in the CARES clinic, where he was a part of a winning case granting asylum for a client. According to Firouzi, the hands-on experiences he gained at Villanova Law will stay with him forever.
“Unquestionably, the CARES Clinic was the most valuable experience for me at Villanova Law,” Firouzi recalled. “I argued in immigration court four times, including in two merits hearings, and worked extensively with clients to prepare and conduct direct examinations, prepared evidence submissions, wrote briefs and so much more. This tremendous experience allowed me to be completely immersed in real world legal work. I know that what I learned and experienced will be useful to me in my future work advocating for clients.”