PILA Funds Record $350,000 in Summer Public Service Fellowships

May 5, 2008

The Public Interest Law Association is distributing a record $350,000 in grants to 72 law students working in public service jobs this summer, according to PILA organizers.

PILA President Katie Schleeter

"We're really proud of both the unending support of student body, faculty and staff, as well as our fund-raising efforts," said PILA President Katie Schleeter. "It's so exciting that people want to dedicate their summers to public service."

Twenty more students will receive grants this year than did last year; 22 second-year law students will pocket grants of $7,083 and 50 first-year law students will each get $4,123. Students take home $6,000 and $3,500 after taxes.

Well over 100 students applied for the grants, Schleeter said.

"This year applications just skyrocketed," she said. "We had no idea that interest was that high."

Last year the number of second-year law students receiving grants decreased because many decided to split their summer between firm and public service jobs, making them ineligible for a grant.

"This year we have 22 second-year law students who are just completely dedicated to this as their career path, and it's a good feeling."

Throughout the year PILA raised $160,000 in grant funds through events such as the annual auction and book sale. The Law School Foundation then matched the funds dollar for dollar. PILA also had money left over from last year after some students turned down grants, Schleeter said.

Students receiving the grants will explore a range of public service work, from international human rights efforts to serving with a public defender or prosecutor.

Kathleen Doherty

First-year law student Kathleen Doherty will work for the Native American Rights Fund in Anchorage, Alaska. The PILA grant "helps because you don't have to take out more loans or find a job on the side," she said. "I hope to learn a lot more about how legal aid works in the real world."

Doherty will work with two attorneys on cases involving translating election ballots into native languages and the right of tribes to hunt and fish for subsistence living. Both cases are expected to go to trial.

"The right to vote is so essential. I just don't see how you can justify [not translating ballots] by saying there are practical difficulties," said Doherty, who has a master's degree in linguistics and majored in anthropology.

Chris (left) and Jamie Schoen

Most students work hard to find one summer job that interests them; Chris and Jamie Schoen, who are married, wanted to find two in the same location. The Schoens will be traveling to South Asia to work with International Justice Mission on prosecuting slavery cases. Because IJM staffers are involved in undercover investigations of human rights abuses, their specific work locations remain undisclosed.

Slavery in the region typically begins when a family is suffering from some kind of financial struggle for which they need a small loan, which could be as low as $15 to $50, Jamie explained. The lender structures the agreement so that the family or child receiving the loan is bonded for life.

"The amount that the owner pays the individual is less than the amount that the loan increases per day, so they can never actually pay it off because they're not allowed to work for anyone else," Jamie said.

The money the slave receives pays for food and rent required to work in the mill or factory. "Oftentimes that may be simply rice and water in the morning and no food later on, and living on a dirt floor in a hut outside of the owner's home."

In some cases future generations also are enslaved, based on a bond made as many as 70 years ago.

The couple, who had spent a semester in Africa as undergraduates, knew they wanted to pursue human-rights work.

"Long-term it's certainly a goal for both of us to go to work in some public service area or to at least be involved with a group like IJM," Chris said.

With plane tickets and other expenses to pay for, "We were very thankful for the PILA grant; it's made the financial stress of the situation much easier to handle," Jamie said.

Kyle Wamstad

While five other students are pursuing work abroad like the Schoens, many PILA grant recipients will stick closer to the Law School. First-year law student Kyle Wamstad is one of nine PILA grantees working for the Legal Aid Justice Center's Civil Advocacy Program in Charlottesville, where he will focus on housing, consumer and employment law issues affecting low-income residents.

Public service work is "one thing you want to get into to get a taste of, to see if it's something up your alley," said Wamstad, who also received Buffett and Equal Justice Works fellowships. "Even in private firms, it's just as important to have citizen or public service-minded lawyers."

De Vera
Jessica De Vera

Second-year law student Jessica De Vera will return to her college hometown of Tallahassee, Fla., where she will use her fellowship to split her summer between Legal Services of North Florida and Tallahassee's public defender's office. Her two employers share many of the same clients: troubled children.

"It turns out that they actually work in tandem on these cases," De Vera said. "It's going to be a really great way to see the entire scope of juvenile public service work."

The legal aid portion of her summer will focus on a program called Team Child, which helps children facing placement into foster homes and residential treatment centers instead be provided with legal, social and mental health services in a way that allows them to remain with their parents.

De Vera said she found her calling in public service last summer when she volunteered for the American Civil Liberties Union's School to Prison Pipeline Project in Austin, Texas. The project examined how students get disciplined in schools and how they are sometimes pushed toward alternative schools.

During one trial she observed, a young boy was caught up in gang participation charges after a schoolyard mishap.

"He pulls out this little manila file folder and in it are all these certificates of achievement, attendance - all this recognition of what a great student he was - and yet he still got roped into this because he is the child of immigrants, and English isn't his first language," she said. "He's getting pushed into this because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." The boy pled no contest and was assigned to a tutoring program by an understanding judge, De Vera said.

She came back invigorated about juvenile law, and took the Child Advocacy Clinic. "That in turn kind of pushed me into looking at what kind of opportunities would be available in Tallahassee doing juvenile work."

Civil Legal Services
ACLU Foundation, New York New York City Gabe Walters
Atlanta Legal Aid Atlanta, Ga. Caroline Klosko
Blue Ridge Legal Services Harrisonburg, Va. Ian Hiatt
Central Virginia Legal Aid Society Charlottesville, Va. Kristen Carothers
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia Philadelphia Rebecca Vallas
LAJC, Just Children or Advocacy, Inc. Charlottesville, Va. Lindsey Bartlett
Legal Aid Justice Center, Civil Advocacy Program Charlottesville, Va. Bridget Joyce
Legal Aid Justice Center, Civil Advocacy Program Charlottesville, Va. John M. Layfield
Legal Aid Justice Center, Civil Advocacy Program Charlottesville, Va. Jose Masini
Legal Aid Justice Center, Civil Advocacy Program Charlottesville, Va. Kyle Wamstad
Legal Aid Justice Center, Immigrant Advocacy Program Charlottesville, Va. Phil Storey
Legal Aid Justice Center, Immigration Clinic Charlottesville, Va. Dan Sullivan
Legal Aid Justice Center, Institutionalized Persons Project Charlottesville, Va. Jason McKim
Legal Aid Justice Center, JustChildren Charlottesville, Va. Erin Crowgey
Legal Services of Northern Florida Tallahassee, Fla. Jessica De Vera
Legal Services of Northern Virginia Fairfax, Va. Andrew Stockment
MFY Legal Services, Inc. New York City Jordan Feit
Native American Rights Fund Anchorage, Alaska Kathleen Doherty
New Hampshire Legal Assistance Concord, N.H. Matthew Prince
South Brooklyn Legal Services Brooklyn, N.Y. Sara Wood
Federal Government
Department of Commerce, Office of the Chief Counsel for Industry and Security Washington, D.C. Christy Weisner
Department of Justice, Arlington Immigration Court Arlington, Va. Patricia Cooper
Department of Justice, Office of Deputy Attorney General Washington, D.C. William Mann
Department of Justice, Office of Special Investigations Washington, D.C. Dawn Miller
Department of Justice, Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training Washington, D.C. Kenneth Duvall
National Labor Relations Board - Region 3 Buffalo, N.Y. Andrew Johnson
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Washington, D.C. Steven Garrett
U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps Charlottesville, Va. Jonathan Brent
U.S. Attorney's Office, Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Alane Ballweg
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Barbara Colberg
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Katherine Lydon
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Susan Edwards
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia Washington, D.C. Tamara Fishman
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maine Portland, Maine Brendan Radke
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maine Portland, Maine Eric Penley
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts Boston Amanda Muller
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia Alexandria, Va. Zach Williams
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California San Diego Benjamin Holley
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York New York City Patrick Mott
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia Roanoke, Va. Steven Gould
Anti-Corruption Commission Sierra Leone Elizabeth Norton
International Peace Operations Association Washington, D.C. Alice Beauheim
International Justice Mission South Asia Christopher Schoen
International Justice Mission South Asia Jamie Lea Schoen
International Rescue Committee Washington, D.C. Eitan Goldstein
U.N. Office for Recovery Coordination of Aceh and Nias Banda Aceh, Indonesia (Sumatra) Daniel Perell
Women's Legal Center South Africa Leigh Miller
Public Defenders
Alexandria Public Defender's Office Alexandria, Va. Katie Worden
Fulton County Public Defender's Office Fulton County, Ga. Mitch McGuffey
Greenville Public Defender's Office Greenville, S.C. George Milam
Illinois State Appellate Defender, Second District Elgin, Ill. Christopher McCoy
Office of the Federal Public Defender, Fourth Circuit Alexandria, Va. Stefanee Handon
Public Defender Services, Washington, D.C., Juvenile Trial Washington, D.C. Amy Saltzman
Tallahassee Public Defender's Office Tallahassee, Fla. Jessica De Vera
Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center Richmond, Va. Jacyln Paolucci
Public Interest Organizations
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark - Immigration Services Newark, N.J. Aaron Esty
Animal Legal Defense Fund Coral Springs, Fla. Elisabeth Custalow
Oliver Hill Foundation, Washington D.C. Washington D.C. Jennifer Jessie
Sierra Club San Francisco Kelly Hodges
Community Law Center, Small Business Unit: Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative Baltimore Nikolena Moysich
Santa Cruz Supreme Court - Family Law Facilitor Santa Cruz, Calif. Victoria E. Neely
Southern Environmental Law Center Charlottesville, Va. Zach Carter
Rutherford Institute Charlottesville, Va. Corrie Sirkin
State and Local Government
Orange and Greene County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office Orange and Greene County, Va. Christopher Dumler
Philadelphia District Attorney's Office Philadelphia Eric K. Gerard
Commonwealth's Attorney, Albemarle County Albemarle County, Va. Kelly Hendry
Philadelphia District Attorney's Office Philadelphia Molly Kubiak
Colorado Attorney General, Appellate Division


Preston Hartman
Commonwealth's Attorney, Alexandria Alexandria, Va. S. Mario Lorello
Manhattan District Attorney's Office New York City Sarah McCracken
Manhattan District Attorney's Office New York City Thomas Krepp
Charlottesville Commonwealth Attorney's Office Charlottesville, Va. W. David Sims
Commonwealth's Attorney, Charlottesville; Supreme Court of Virginia, Office of the Chief Staff Attorney Charlottesville, Va. David Roberts


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