Erin Agnew

School: Beasley School of Law
Degree: JD, law, 2021
Hometown: Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania

Erin Agnew, LAW ’21, chose Temple Law for its emphasis on serving the public. Today, at Philadelphia VIP, she works to protect housing stability and intergenerational income by helping vulnerable Philadelphians with property title problems through probate, litigation, and family negotiation. As well, she works to make housing affordable by connecting clients with meaningful tax and utility programs.

Determined and driven 

Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, Agnew was always a precocious child. At just eight years old, Agnew volunteered as an interpretive guide at historic sites such as Graeme Park in Horsham and Hope Lodge in Fort Washington. Then during her high school years, she served as a student representative to the Pennsylvania Board of Education. 

Her achievement continued in college, when she enrolled as an international affairs major at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She excelled both in and out of the classroom, collecting prestigious internships with nongovernmental organizations such as The Carter Center, which advocates for human rights.  

But it wasn’t all roses for Agnew. Growing up, her parents owned a sign shop in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington, and their finances ultimately faltered. The experience highlighted for Erin the importance of learning how to navigate benefits resources and access scholarship funds.  

Ultimately, the experience became one she can draw on when building trust with her clients. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Agnew felt compelled to help those whose families faced challenges like hers did.

The spirit of Temple Law 

Agnew had her pick of law schools, but a degree from Temple would allow her to practice law that serves everyday people. 

“I chose Temple Law because it has a focus on clinical learning and public interest law. And it was in my view the most community-grounded law school of those I was considering,” Agnew said. 

While at Temple, Erin worked with Professor Mary Levy to organize a student volunteer trip to prepare asylum applications at the US/Mexico border with an organization called Al Otro Lado. She also worked closely on a taxpayer rights project with Professor Alice Abreu. 

And, she is very proud of the work she got to do in internships with the SSI unit in Community Legal Services and the Education Law Center.   

These experiences helped Agnew identify her passion for practicing law that advocated for the public. She wanted to help people navigate access to government programs or defend themselves from predatory practices.

Erin Agnew poses for a photo.
Erin Agnew smiles in the streets of Philadelphia.

“When the government holds itself out as the only viable provider of a benefit, service or resource, there is a responsibility of the legal community to ensure that the government is protecting people’s rights and access to the benefit.” 

–Erin Agnew
Staff attorney

Balancing the scales 

After obtaining her law degree, Agnew spent time as a clerk in Criminal Court before landing a position as a staff attorney specializing in homeownership at Philadelphia VIP, an organization that provides pro bono legal representation to low-income families, businesses and nonprofits in Philadelphia. Agnew represents her clients and recruits and trains other area attorneys to provide the firm’s no-cost services. 

“We work with clients to prepare their cases, educate them about the issues they are facing and connect them with volunteer legal counsel,” Agnew explains. 

Agnew hopes to stay with Philadelphia VIP and continue advocating for clients as long as possible. In one exemplary case, Agnew helped a client who was facing foreclosure. In these instances, Agnew says that court proceedings can often favor mortgage providers with specialized attorneys.  

“I think the opposing counsel assumed it was a guaranteed success,” Agnew says. “Our client logged in with a team of four attorneys from an extremely prestigious firm in Philadelphia. And that client is still in his home.”