PILA Grantees Report Rewarding Summer Job Experiences

October 1, 2003
Third-year law student Angela Caldwell worked for the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville.

Nine of the students who spent their summers working in public service law, supported by grants from the Law School's Public Interest Law Association, recounted their experiences at a lunch meeting Sept. 23 designed to spark others' interest in emulating them next summer.

"It was just awesome," said Katie Bagley, who spent her summer with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where she worked on cases with the FBI and ATF and assisted in an appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Angela Caldwell described working for the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, where she worked on children's Medicaid issues. "We're considering a lawsuit over children's access to dentistry," she said. She enrolled in the Housing Clinic this fall in order to "stay up with" the clients she began helping over the summer.

Katie Bagley


Pat Lavelle


Miles Roberts

Miles Roberts worked for the Department of Justice in Washington in its computer crimes division. He wrote reports trying to forecast new crimes people might use computers for.

Pat Lavelle worked with the garment workers union in New York City, ghostwriting a paper due for presentation to the American Bar Association and on a case being brought in Japan against Levi's clothing. He said he got his job through persistence.

David Thomas worked for the Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney's office, which has only five prosecutors on staff. "They're so swamped they rely on you," Thomas said, "The only downside was I had to wear a suit. I spent half my time in court. I wrote all the appellate briefs. I enjoyed it so much I'm working there part-time now."

Kieran Brenner was in Dacca, Bangladesh, experiencing the monsoons and associated power shortages while working for the Asia Foundation. "I wrote an assessment of the transparency, efficiency, and accountability of the Bangladesh government," he said. "I had incredible access to people in the government to interview. I worked seven days a week. There was less law to it-except that they need to repeal about five articles in their constitution." Brenner said he found the job through the Conference on Public Service and the Law last spring.

Rachel Doughty worked on forest management plans for five national forests across the Southeast for the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville. "I worked with activists from across the Southeast. I put together fact sheets for use by congressmen, wrote an administrative law brief, and I met a whole lot of people," she said.

Jim Hicks worked for the District Attorney of San Francisco. "I recommend that you just go get what you want," he said. "You're free help to them. That brings a lot to the table." He called the San Francisco office "huge, and it feels disorganized." He wrote briefs, worked in the parole program and saw "horrendous cases, more horrible than fiction." Hickson, who has also worked for the Charlottesville District Attorney's office, advised students to "take charge and take responsibility for your education. It's up to you to make it what you can."

Karen Pogonowski worked for the New York State Attorney General's office on lawsuits brought against its state parks. "I was involved with the ones we wanted to settle because the state was wrong," she said. "One thing I had to find out is how much a broken nose is worth." She called the job "a great experience and I'm really glad I did it."

Bagley suggested that students interested in public service jobs for next summer write letters to prospective employers in early December and offer to be available for interviews over the winter break.

PILA President Carmen Elliott said the organization awarded $143,000 in summer grants last year, 19 to second-year students and 16 to first-years. Second-years are awarded $5,000 and are allowed to earn another $3,000 from their jobs before being required to return part of the grant. Awards to first-years are for $3,000 with a $2,000 earning limit.

"How much we can grant is dependent on how well fund-raising goes," said Elliott. The PILA auction generates the largest share of the budget, with additional support from a pledge drive and the Law School Foundation, which matches every dollar raised by students with another 50 cents. Elliott said that in selecting grantees, PILA considers whether the applicant seems to want a public service career and has a history of volunteering. A second factor is financial need. PILA does not give grants to students intending to work on political campaigns, on clerkships, or to volunteer at for-profit organizations. In a typical year about 25 percent of applicants receive awards.

Where Pila Grantees Worked, Summer 2003


FDA Office of Chief Counsel Rockville, MD
Office of Senator Joseph Biden, Senate Judiciary Committee Washington, D.C.
Office of the Legislative Counsel Washington, D.C.
U.S. Attorney's Office Boise, ID
U.S. Attorney's Office Portland, ME
U.S. Attorney's Office Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Computer Crime Section Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division,
Office of International Affairs
Washington, D.C.


Attorney General's Office Utica, NY
California Attorney General's Office, Criminal Division CA
Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, Albemarle County Charlottesville, VA
Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, Arlington County Arlington, VA
District Attorney's Office Texas
District Attorney's Office, Denver Denver, CO
District Attorney's Office, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
District Attorney's Office, San Francisco San Francisco, CA
Office of the General Counsel, U.Va. Charlottesville, VA
Public Defender Service, District of Columbia Washington, D.C.
Public Defender, Charlottesville Charlottesville, VA
Public Defender, Ft. Myers Ft. Myers, FL
Public Defender, Miami Miami, FL


Asia Foundation Bangladesh
Center for Economic Development and Human Rights India
Human Rights Centre, University of Pretoria South Africa

Non-Profit Organizations

Appalachian Research & Defense Fund, Inc. Prestonsburg, KY
Elder Law Center, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups Madison, WI
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area San Francisco, CA
Legal Aid Justice Center VA
Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago Chicago, IL
Legal Services of New Jersey NJ
New York City Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Division New York, NY
Prairie State Legal Services IL
Rappahannock Legal Services, Inc. Culpeper, VA
Rutherford Institute Charlottesville, VA
Southern Center for Human Rights Atlanta, GA
Southern Environmental Law Center Charlottesville, VA
Trial Lawyers for Public Justice Oakland, CA
UNITE (a union-side labor organization) New York, NY


Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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