Students Receive Range of Awards to Pursue Career Goals
The North Carolina Guardian ad Litem (GAL) State Office budget didn't include funds for an intern this summer-but the fellowships first-year law student Cary Brege received will allow her to work there for free while gaining invaluable insight into the areas of juvenile law and child advocacy that are so central to her career.
Brege, along with several other students, are harvesting a few more fellowships and scholarships as the year draws to a close, allowing them to pursue their goals this summer and beyond.
The GAL program aims to represent the best interests of a child in court during cases of abuse or neglect, Brege explained. The State Office supervises the work of the GAL district offices and engages in much of the research, writing, mobilization, and training for GALs in North Carolina.
"I will be doing a lot of legal research and writing," Brege said. "Specifically, I will investigate the 'hearsay exception' for children in North Carolina and compare it to the law in other states."
Brege received an impressive three fellowships totaling $9,000: the Equal Justice America Summer Fellowship, the Doris Buffett Fellowship, and a Public Interest Law Association (PILA) fellowship.
"Hopefully, using these fellowships this summer will confirm the reason I came to law school: to make a difference in the lives of clients, assisting and empowering them to navigate a legal system that oftentimes does not look out for the most vulnerable in society," she said.
The Equal Justice America fellowship, designed to provide direct legal services to the poor, provided Brege with $3,500 in exchange for 10 weeks of service in an organization devoted to providing legal assistance to the indigent. Although she is honored that all three organizations awarded fellowships, Brege was particularly flattered to receive the prestigious Equal Justice award.
"I have been so impressed with the caliber, both personally and professionally, of people I have known who have been awarded Equal Justice fellowships," she said. "I hope to be able to work with them more in the future as I explore the areas where my legal training and interest in child advocacy intersects with providing direct legal services to the poor."
This particular intersection is also the focus of the Buffett Fellowship, offered by the U.Va. Center for Children, Families, and the Law; Brege received $2,000 for use in "an area where children, families and law intersect" from the Center, she said. Most recipients who are law students work in public service settings representing children and/or families, although the Buffett Fellowship is open to any graduate student.
The Law School's PILA Fellowship provides grants of about $3,500 for first-year students and $5,900 for second years for summer public service jobs. Brege praised the impact the fellowships have on first-year students' job opportunities.
"Since most public service jobs are unpaid, this fellowship makes working in public service a viable option," she said. "One of the best effects of the program, in my mind, is that it gives many students an opportunity to gain exposure to public service before they work for a law firm the next summer."
Second-year law student Paul Godfrey, who received a Virginia State Bar Criminal Fellowship offering $1,770, will spend his summer with the Fredericksburg Public Defender's office. According to Godfrey, "My selection took me completely by surprise-certainly a pleasant one though."
Given to students working in the field of criminal law, the fellowship will aid Godfrey's goal of working in the criminal justice system before moving on to a developing country, where he can apply the skills and training he received in the United States.
"The fellowship will help make possible my working for the public defender's office, as that is an unpaid position," said Godfrey, who also received a PILA fellowship. "The public defender's office should give me a good opportunity to work on the front lines of the American justice system."
Awards are also available to students pursuing work outside of public service. Second-year law student Lisa Perez was named one of four inaugural Latham & Watkins Diversity Scholars, in a program that awards $10,000 for use during recipients' third year at the Law School. Factors considered in choosing recipients included their ability to contribute to the diversity objectives of global law firms, their success in overcoming obstacles or challenges faced in deciding to choose law as a profession, academic and/or leadership achievements, and their desire to practice in a global law firm environment.
"The scholarship was a perfect fit for me because I was already planning on working in a global firm environment, and contributing to diversity within my law firm of choice was already a priority in my mind," said Perez, who is president of the revived Latin American Law Organization and an executive board member of the Center for the Study of Race and Law.
Perez's family survived the Cuban revolution and battled economic uncertainty in Puerto Rico before immigrating to the mainland United States when she was in high school. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Perez worked as an intergovernmental affairs officer for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where she helped facilitate dialogue between the island and the mainland. At the Law School, she is part of the International Rescue Committee, which works directly with refugees to assist in securing permanent residence status. Perez is splitting her summer with Latham & Watkins and Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Washington, D.C.
"The scholarship application process also required me to think about my place in the legal community as one of only a few Latinas, and to identify ways in which I can contribute to both making the profession more diverse, and to enriching the profession by seeking to shed light on the concerns of Latinos within the law," she said.
For Perez, Godfrey, Brege, and the many other law students who received fellowships, scholarships, and internships that will open many doors and opportunities, the best thing such awards provide is exposure to real-world lawyering.
"This will be a unique opportunity to gain an enormous amount of practical experience," Brege said.
Other recent fellowship and scholarship recipients include:
- First-year law students Amy Woolard and Mike Hollander both received Equal Justice America awards recently, in addition to their PILA fellowships. Both will work in Charlottesville over the summer-Woolard for the Legal Aid Justice Center's Just Children Program, and Hollander at the Virginia Justice Center. Woolard also received a Buffet Fellowship.
- First-year law student Devin Huseby received the Dana H. Rowe Memorial Scholarship, a $4,000 award presented annually by the U.Va. Alumni Association to a University student from New England.
- Also winning Buffet Fellowships are: Rebecca Barnes, Marina Chase, Jennifer DaCosta, Vera Gerrity, Brooke Minor, and Renada Rutmanis.
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.