Edward H. Haas, Esq., M.S.W.
I was born with cerebral palsy, which is a neurologically based disability where — to put it simply — the messages that your brain sends to your muscles are all garbled and jumbled so that the muscles don’t work exactly correctly. I use a walker and a power wheelchair for mobility.
When I first came to Richmond to study law, being new to the community, I needed to find out how to get myself set up. I went to Jewish Family Services and one of the people that I met there, a 1974 VCU School of Social Work graduate, Adele I. Karp, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., helped me find my way — locating a contractor to make some changes inside my apartment, telling me where to get dry cleaning done, where to buy groceries, etc.
I realized, “Wow, this was someone who could help people connect with the services that they needed and make a difference in their lives.” Not necessarily the one to provide the service, but the one hooking them up with services that help. That experience planted the seed.
Halfway through my law school education, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy what people would consider your typical legal career. And, practically speaking, I was looking for something to distinguish myself from every other lawyer out there. I thought an M.S.W. might be a good way to do it.
Once I graduated, I knew I wanted to do something that married both degrees. I wanted to practice an area of law that had a more day-to-day impact on people’s lives. How can you impact people’s lives — positively or negatively — more than enforcing the laws relating to their home environment, their work environment and the places that they go to socialize, and keeping them free from discrimination?
At the core of social work is social justice. The pursuit of equality, fairness and justice, and the lifelong endeavor to embrace diversity — to accept people who may not be the norm — inform every level of social work, whether you have a bachelor’s, a master’s or a doctorate.
These foundational values of social work are similar, and in some ways identical, to those of the legal profession.
This is why I studied social work.
Edward H. Haas, Esq., M.S.W., is a deputy attorney general with the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety’s Division on Civil Rights, where, among his numerous duties, he assists in the investigation of cases concerning allegations of discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodation, and credit and contracting practices, under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. A 2002 M.S.W. graduate of the VCU School of Social Work, Haas has provided outreach concerning disability and related civil rights issues for more than 22 years.The statements above are the personal views and opinions of Edward H. Haas, Esq., M.S.W., and do not reflect the views or policies of the Administration of the governor of New Jersey, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Law and Public Safety or any subdivision thereof.