Alternative Spring Break Celebrates a Decade of Service

More than 60 Law Students Served at 25 Locations
Katie Carpenter, Gia Nyhuis, and Anna Cox

First-year law students Katie Carpenter, Gia Nyhuis and Anna Cox assisted the Fairfax Public Defender’s Office. They stand in front of the Fairfax County Courthouse. Photo by Dylan Igoe

March 28, 2019

University of Virginia School of Law students recently participated in Alternative Spring Break's 10th anniversary year, logging more than 2,400 hours of pro bono legal work.

The service was coordinated by the Public Interest Law Association and took place March 11-15.

PILA President Cameron Duncan ’19 was one of more than 60 UVA Law students who volunteered at 25 locations across the country. She spent the week at the Mississippi Center for Justice in Biloxi. The center works on economic and racial justice issues through policy advocacy, direct services and a combination of other approaches.

“Getting to do concrete, substantive work in concert with the attorneys there and having the opportunity to interact with local government offices in the course of that work was an incredible learning experience for me,” Duncan said.

Xiaoyan Shi, Duncan Cameron and Ryan Haynes
S.J.D. student Xiaoyan Shi, third-year law student Cameron Duncan and first-year law student Ryan Haynes worked at the Mississippi Center for Justice in Biloxi, Mississippi. Photo by Anderson Vereyken

Other locations where students provided service included the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer Foundation, Orleans Public Defenders, Catholic Charities at the Archdiocese of New York, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, and six commonwealth’s attorney’s offices and five public defender’s offices in Virginia.

Participation in the Law School’s student-run Alternative Spring Break efforts have multiplied since they began in 2009, when 17 students participated.  

“Programs like this are truly a win-win, and ours was no exception,” then-PILA President Rebecca Vallas ’09 said. “It matched up motivated and energetic law students hoping to devote their spring breaks to a good cause with two terrific — if understaffed and overstretched — legal aid organizations that need all the extra help they can get.”

PILA’s mission is to promote and support public interest law among UVA students. In addition to coordinating the spring break activities, PILA, in partnership with the Law School’s Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center, provides fellowships to students who work in summer internships in public service.

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