Ashley Lowe spent many years fighting for the rights of low-income individuals, long before she was named chief executive officer of Lakeshore Legal Aid (Lakeshore). A respected and prominent figure in the field of poverty law, Ashley has dedicated her professional and personal life to working in legal aid and helping the poor. Ashley feels very strongly that low-income people should have excellent lawyers, just like the people that are able to pay for them.
Ashley first became involved with legal aid as a law student while working at a clinic for low-income domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. After graduating law school, she went on to work for two large firms as a commercial litigator. Despite being in private practice, she still devoted much of her time to volunteer work and remained engaged with the low-income community. In 2000, Ashley left private practice to join Oakland Livingston Legal Aid.
One of Ashley’s most memorable poverty law moments was her first divorce case. Ashley was up against a seasoned attorney in a highly contested custody battle. Ashley’s client had been the victim of domestic violence for many years at the hand of the opposing party. The many years of domestic violence left Ashley’s client feeling defeated and voiceless. With Ashley at her client’s side being her voice and legal advocate, and after an contentious week-long trial, the client was awarded sole custody of her children, allowing her to move out of state to safety, far away from her abuser.
Beyond her involvement with Lakeshore, Ashley is highly involved in her community. She is currently a professor at Wayne State Law’s Free Legal Aid Clinic. She is a member of the Michigan State Planning Body for Legal Services, an association dedicated to coordinating an effective civil legal services delivery system in Michigan. Ashley is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan’s Innovation and Implementation Steering Committee. In addition to all of these responsibilities, Ashley still finds the time to hold a seat on the board of her children’s school.
On October 26, 2017, Lakeshore hosted their annual Pro Bono Appreciation Event. The event honored all of the volunteers who helped Lakeshore throughout the year. At this year’s event, the city of Detroit’s Law Department was honored. The Law Department was highly involved in Project Clean Slate, an initiative designed to help Detroit residents become job ready. The project continues to assist those with criminal records to get expungements and also provides career services such as job placement, training, and job readiness. Criminal backgrounds are an impediment to many trying to find employment, and the goal of the project is to help ease some of the roadblocks that many people encounter.
Lakeshore has recently expanded to provide civil legal services for Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne countries, opening eight offices in the last year and a half and hiring about 100 new staff members, including attorneys and administrative staff. Under Ashley’s leadership and dedication to the field of poverty law, Lakeshore will be able to provide legal services to thousands more indigent people, providing them with meaningful access to the justice system.
Summer Moukalled & Robert Mathis contributed to this story.