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Posted May 3, 2007

PILA Funds 53 Summer Public Service Fellowships

Ho Min Lee
 
First-year law student Ho Min Lee will work for Human Rights in China this summer with the help of a $3,500 PILA grant.

From working on Chinese human rights to serving in Charlottesville, this year’s 53 recipients of the Public Interest Law Association’s (PILA) summer grants will explore a wide range of jobs that provide them with the kind of experience needed to enter public service careers or provide a foundation for lifelong pro bono work.

For the first time in the grant program’s history, PILA offered awards to each of the 71 students who sought them, but several students ended up finding alternative funding or splitting their summers between private and public jobs, a growing practice, particularly among second-year students. A robust private sector has cut down the number of applications somewhat from the mid-1990s, when more than 100 students typically might apply, explained PILA president Kelly Voss.

“It’s important just to meet people where they are,” Voss said. “A public interest law firm split works well for a lot of people.” Law firms are also starting to bolster their pro bono programs in other ways, making private practice more attractive to students interested in public service. The latest Career Services Office employment survey shows that 92 second-year law students are splitting their summers, including jobs ranging from working for federal agencies, public service organizations, and judges or courts to working for a law professor.

This summer PILA will disburse $215,697 to 43 first-year and 10 second-year law students, who will receive grants of about $3,500 and $5,900, respectively. PILA raises funds through events such as the Public Service Auction, which this year collected more than $60,000, and the used book sale, which garnered more than $20,000. The Law School Foundation matches donations dollar for dollar.

“We really appreciate the students who participate,” Voss said. Each year fundraising efforts have grown, partly because those who receive fellowships are required to donate 20 hours of their time to PILA in the school year following their fellowship.

Zach McDermott
 
Zach McDermott

Second-year law student Zach McDermott’s PILA grant will help fund his internship with the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, which employs 500 people and, during the summer, 80 interns.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said McDermott, who explained that he grew up in Wichita, Kan., where his mother ran an after-school tutoring program that included primarily African-American students from low-income homes. “Really good kids with a lot of potential would end up in jail. It inspired me to go to law school and become a public defender,” he said.

McDermott researched prison systems while majoring in African-American Studies at the University of Kansas, which solidified his dream of becoming an attorney for the indigent.

The PILA grant will further aid his goals. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without it. It’s still going to be tight [financially], but it makes it possible,” he said. In San Francisco he’ll be assigned to an attorney mentor, and his duties might include arguing evidentiary motions to suppress, attending felony trials, and advising on jury selection. “You get more courtroom experience you wouldn’t be able to get at a firm.”

First-year law student Ho Min Lee wanted to put his experience in the international arena and his language skills to good use this summer. With the help of Human Rights Program director Deena Hurwitz, he secured a position in New York City with Human Rights in China, a well-regarded international nongovernmental organization. Lee's father was an international businessman, so Lee lived in numerous Asian cities in China, Korea, Singapore, and Japan. He majored in East Asian Studies at Harvard and speaks Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and English.

"Having a PILA grant helps a lot," Lee said. "It takes off the burden." 

This summer Lee will work on topics such as domestic legal reform and the right to health in rural China while also helping prepare publications on human rights in China and working as a translator. Because the Olympics will be held in Beijing next year, "the media scrutiny of human rights issues is inevitably going to increase," Lee said, "There's going to be a lot of information that's going to be sent out to both a domestic Chinese and international audience."

The experience will also help him with his short- and long-term goals. After law school he plans to work as a Judge Advocate General in the Korean Air Force.  

"My biggest ambition is to work as a diplomat and improve relations among East Asian countries and other states," he said, as well as addressing East Asian security and human rights issues, ranging from religious freedom to protection for refugees. "This summer project will help me actually see a facet of that." 

Lindsay McCaslin
 
Lindsay McCaslin

First-year law student Lindsay McCaslin will be sticking closer to the Law School, working in Charlottesville’s Legal Aid Justice Center for the JustChildren program, which is sponsoring three law students this summer. JustChildren is a child and educational advocacy pro bono effort that protects the educational rights of children, helps children receive mental health services, and provides services to children in the court system as well as support for foster children.

“One of the things that I really loved about them is that they deal with individual people, but that they also do policy work, which is pretty unusual,” said McCaslin, a Boston University graduate. “I came to law school interested in educational advocacy.”

She secured the position with JustChildren through on-grounds interviews. “Funding makes it difficult to stay in the nonprofit sector,” she said. “The PILA grant definitely helps.”

McCaslin’s interest in education stems from the three years spent as a high school physics and math teacher in San Diego, where she worked in both urban and suburban schools and didn’t like the stark differences in funding she saw.

“The children in both are fantastic to work with…[The urban children’s] educational level is just lower, not through any fault of their own,” she said. “I’d like to be able to increase funding and encourage good teachers to stay in urban schools. I would really love to learn how to do that from JustChildren.”

Civil Legal Services
Blue Ridge Legal Aid Services Harrisonburg, VA Caroline Klosko
Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation New York, NY Dana Jupiter
California Indian Legal Services Oakland, CA Matthew Vanwormer
Community Development Law Center Portland, OR Nikolena Moysich
Greater Boston Legal Services Boston, MA Rebecca Vallas
Legal Aid Justice Center - Child Health Advocacy Charlottesville, VA Luke Laumann
Legal Aid Justice Center - Civil Advocacy Charlottesville, VA Jennifer Brickey
Legal Aid Justice Center - JustChildren Charlottesville, VA Lindsay McCaslin
Legal Aid Justice Center - JustChildren Charlottesville, VA Phillip Storey
Legal Aid of North Carolina - Advocates for Children’s Service Durham, NC Cary Brege
Legal Aid of North Carolina Pembroke, NC Dania Davy
Legal Aid Society New York, NY Gabriel Walters
Legal Services of New York New York, NY Nicholas Ahuja
Legal Services of Northern Virginia Fairfax, VA Jason James
Rappahannock Legal Services Fredericksburg, VA Matthew Lee
Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Immigrant Workers Charlottesville, VA Neal Hampton
Federal Government
Department of Justice, Office of the Deputy Attorney General Washington, D.C. Ryan Quillian
U.S. Agency for International Development Washington, D.C. Timothy Emmet
U.S. Attorney, District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Sara Robinson
U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Missouri St. Louis, MO Benjamin Holley
U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York New York, NY Jeannie Ho
U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut New Haven, CT Jonathan Bryan
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia Charlottesville, VA Scott Jones
U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Dena Kessler
U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland Baltimore, Maryland Paul Levin
International
Dokumenta Zagreb, Croatia Alice Beauheim
Human Rights in China New York, NY Ho Min Lee
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Office of the Prosecutor The Hague, Netherlands Chad Trainer
International Bar Association London, England David Plante
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Arusha, Tanzania Kathryn Finley
International Service for Human Rights Geneva, Switzerland Daniel Perell
U.S. Department of State Baku, Azerbaijan Caitlin Stapleton
TBD   Rebecca Freeman
Public Defenders
Alexandria Public Defender's Office Alexandria, VA Elizabeth Carter
Alexandria Public Defender's Office Alexandria, VA Elizabeth Hatcher
Alternate Defender Office San Jose, CA Naveen Pai
Capital Defender's Office of Northern Virginia Manassas, VA Lauren Charneski
D.C. Public Defender Service Washington, D.C. Amy Woolard
D.C. Public Defender Service Washington, D.C. David Koenig
D.C. Public Defender Service Washington, D.C. Elizabeth Coe
Salt Lake Legal Defender Salt Lake City, UT Nariman Noursalehi
San Francisco Public Defender's Office San Francisco, CA Zachary McDermott
Taos Public Defender's Office Taos, NM Aaron Esty
Public Interest Organizations
The Advancement Project Washington, D.C. Dana Weekes
Human Rights Watch Washington, D.C. Katherine Flatley
Life Legal Defense Napa, CA Rebekah Shapiro
Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Freedom of Expression Charlottesville, VA John Anderson
Washington Scholarship Fund Washington, D.C. TJ Parnham
State and Local Government
Attorney General's Office for the District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Molly Kubiak
Attorney General's Office for the District of Columbia, Criminal Section Washington, D.C. Christopher Munsey
Atlanta City Solicitor's Office Atlanta, GA Christopher Dumler
Delaware Attorney General's Office Wilmington, DE Robert Burns
Dinwiddie County Attorney's Office Dinwiddie, VA Tyler Southall

• Reported by Mary Wood