Public Service Auction Launches Online Bidding with Record Number of Donations


The annual Public Interest Law Association's auction and dance typically raises more than $50,000 to fund students working in public service positions during the summer.

November 8, 2011

Poker with professors, a Supreme Court primer with Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick, and a football tailgate party and game with Dean Paul G. Mahoney are just a few of the prizes University of Virginia law students are battling for this week in advance of the 23rd annual Public Interest Law Association auction.

PILA typically raises more than $50,000 through its auction and dance to fund students working in public service positions during the summer, more than the student-run organization raises through any other single fundraiser. This year organizers hope to break records with the advent of online bidding, which runs now through Thursday at 5 p.m., and through more than 170 items students, faculty and staff can bid on.

The silent auction bidding will begin at the top online bidder's price at Friday's dance and auction, which starts at 8 p.m. at UVA's Alumni Hall. Professors John Setear and Anne Coughlin are hosting the event, which has an "Ocean's 11" theme.

"We hope is this will give studentsa better chance to plan their bidding and win the items they really want," said PILA Auction Director Mike Moskowitz, a third-year law student. "This year shattered the record for donations and the PILA Board is very grateful for everyone's support."

Items up for bid include meals with professors; vacations to Ireland, Montana and Virginia Beach; signed NFL and college footballs; tuition discounts and free rent; Professor Anne Coughlin's famous graduation dinner for 15 students and family members and a range of smaller offerings, from babysitting services to dance lessons.

The online auction also represents a unique leveraging of University of Virginia talent. Darden School of Business student Jon Carrier designed the online bidding software, 501 Auctions, during an internship this summer. He said he was inspired to make the system after his chosen platform crashed for his own auction for Building Goodness in April, a Darden student organization dedicated to improving the homes of Charlottesville community members in need.

"I saw the PILA auction as a great opportunity to show 501 Auction's value with an organization that had never held an online event before, and I know that donating the software is going to benefit students who will spend their summer working for great causes," Carrier said.

Carrier's work impressed the PILA Board and he was brought on to build the auction site, Moskowitz said.

Near the end of the school year, donations to PILA are matched or more by the Law School Foundation. Last spring, PILA distributed $378,000 to 81 first- and second-year students working in public service positions. (More) First-year recipients receive $3,500 and second-years receive $6,000.

"We are so happy that we can use the PILA auction to do two things — raise money for public interest grants, and provide the law school community with an opportunity to have a really great night," said PILA President Ashley Matthews.

Auction tickets are on sale this week in Hunton & Williams Hall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Although online bidding is new, the auction is consistent in one regard: "Friday night will be one of the most fun events of the year," Moskowitz said.

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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