Estee Konor is a civil rights attorney and movement lawyer leveraging deep expertise in criminal justice and economic equity to build power for Black and brown communities. After growing up in an immigrant family in the Midwest, she began her legal career in New York City in private practice. But her north star was always public service and her goal was to use litigation as a tool to build a just, multiracial democracy.
After seven years as a commercial litigator, Konor transitioned to public interest legal work. Most recently, she worked at the Community Service Society of New York where she was a lawyer and advocate for people impacted by the criminal legal system. She used civil legal services, impact litigation, community legal education, and policy advocacy to break down barriers to reentry and help individuals impacted by the criminal legal system access employment, housing, and engage in civic participation.
Konor achieved critical wins for her clients, even in a system where the deck was stacked against them. But she wanted to address the problems her clients were facing on a more systemic level. “I had wanted to work on reentry issues for so long and I loved that work,” she explains, “but it started to feel like I was playing whack-a-mole with structural racism." She was successfully battling employers, licensing agencies, and housing providers, but Konor wanted to use her legal skills to do more than just solve problems for her individual clients – she wanted to support movement work.
This shift in her practice was prompted by her introduction to community organizing. As she was transitioning from private practice to public-interest legal work, Konor had become involved in community organizing with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), an organizing hub for progressive Jewish New Yorkers. She completed an organizing fellowship with JFREJ, became an active member of their affinity space for Mizrahi/Sephardi Jews (Jews from the Middle East and North Africa), and currently serves on the organization’s Board of Directors.
Her collaboration with organizers changed how she thought about her legal work. “I wanted to use my skills as a litigator and advocate to build power and support movement work. And that’s exactly what Demos is doing, which is why I’m so excited to join the team.”