Staff lawyer spotlight – Samir Jaber, Disability Rights Wisconsin

rural_jaber_350x234By Rita Lord

Right after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2012, Samir Jaber went to work with Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW), a private nonprofit organization working to ensure the rights of those with disabilities. Jaber was attracted to a job in the area of social justice because “I was raised in a poor Milwaukee community where people lacked access to services in the justice system. My parents taught me to better my community and use my skills to support people in need in order to amplify their voice. My father was an immigrant and both of my parents worked hard to make ends meet. I was raised to believe that if I am afforded an opportunity, I must use that opportunity to help others who have not had those opportunities. So when I saw the posting for a job at DRW, it was incredibly attractive to me.”

Jaber is a staff attorney with DRW’s Disability Benefits Specialist Program. The program works with Departments of Human Services and Aging and Disability Resource Centers in every county in the state. Disability Benefits Specialists help people learn about and apply for benefits to which they may be entitled. Jaber provides supervision, training, guidance and legal advice to the benefits specialists in 15 counties in northwestern Wisconsin. “We find that when people apply for benefits on their own, the initial approval rate is not very high. With assistance from benefits specialists, the approval rate is much higher,” Jaber said.

One of the best parts of his job, said Jaber, is working with people who share a passion and commitment to helping others. “I don’t have to wonder if we are doing all we can because I am working with people who have been doing this for years and are extremely dedicated to this work. They are inspiring.” His goal is to “grow as an attorney and become a resource for my community. I just want to become better at what I do.”

Jaber works in the DRW’s Rice Lake office. “I was raised in Milwaukee and attended college and law school in Madison, so when I took this job, I admit I had to look Rice Lake up on a map,” Jaber said. Moving to a small town was an adjustment, but he is making new friends and trying new experiences. “Working in a small town has given me the opportunity to take some initiatives that I would not have had working in a large firm in a big city.”

When asked what advice he would give to an attorney just starting out, Jaber stated, “Be patient. The reality is that it might take time to find the job that’s right for you. It might be challenging and frustrating, but don’t let the job market get you down. Figure out where your interests lie, prioritize what matters to you, and then pursue those priorities. If you keep your priorities in front of you, you’ll do fine.”

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