Students Volunteer Pro Bono for Spring Break

1,925 Hours Earned at Offices in 5 States and District of Columbia
Public Interest Law Association

UVA Law students Vivian Su '18, Sam Thoma '20, Erin Seagears '20, Megan Keenan '18 and Kaitlin Cottle '20 volunteered for the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., during their spring break.

March 16, 2018

The Public Interest Law Association at the University of Virginia School of Law sent 46 students to 11 locations in five states and the District of Columbia this month as part of its Alternative Spring Break.

Law students volunteered a collective 1,925 pro bono hours.

Several students assisted with matters in the criminal justice system during the break, most of which took place the week of March 4.

“I was fortunate to have a weeklong immersion in the culture of a true-believer public defender’s office, which complemented my broader focus on criminal justice reform and racial justice,” said PILA President Megan Keenan ’18, who worked in the Special Litigation Division of the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C.

Students also worked in association with licensed attorneys on criminal defense cases in Louisiana, including a capital punishment case.

They had additional opportunities to meet alumni practitioners, such as Judge Catherine Easterly ’96 of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Each fall, PILA reaches out to former partner organizations, as well as public service organizations where students specifically express interest in volunteering.

Students in New Orleans
First-year law students Andrew Ellingsen, Katie Daw, Michael Rochford, Scott French and Robbie Hemstreet volunteered with Orleans Public Defenders in New Orleans.

For Keenan, who will clerk for Judge R. Guy Cole of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals after graduation, the volunteer hours served as an exciting reminder of the future work she plans to do as a public interest attorney.

“I was energized by the passion that public defender service attorneys have for their work and their willingness to take students along for the ride, even for a short period of time, and I’m certain the perspective they offered will enhance my work after I graduate," Keenan said.

UVA Law’s Pro Bono Program challenges students to volunteer pro bono at least 75 hours during law school.

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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