PILA Raises $20,000 in Online Auction for Public Service Internships

Kim Curtis

Kim Curtis ’21 is auction director of the Public Interest Law Association. Photo by Julia Davis

November 30, 2020

Undeterred by the pandemic, the Public Interest Law Association at the University of Virginia School of Law moved its annual auction online and raised $20,000 for public service internships.

The student-led PILA is dedicated to the promotion of public interest law at UVA, and its marquee event is the PILA auction and dance, dating back to 1990. With support from the Law School Foundation, the summer fellowship program provides grants to law students who accept low-paying or unpaid public service internships, an amount that totaled $710,351 in 2020. This year’s auction was held over six days in November.

Kim Curtis ’21, PILA’s auction director, said challenges this year included revamping the organization’s web presence and overcoming disappointment that the in-person gala had to be scrapped. Last year’s auction raised $23,000.

“The PILA auction is always this huge celebration and marker in the fall semester of the time to start studying for finals and this is the last hurrah of the semester,” Curtis said, “so we were sort of figuring out what could we do that would still give us a sense of community and be fun but also be safe.”

Traditional auction items, donated by students, faculty and friends of the Law School, have included stays in vacation homes, babysitting services or spending social time with faculty. Donations this year included gift cards for local businesses, a gift basket from the Courts and Commerce bookstore and a crocheted baby blanket. Some 1L sections pooled money for cash donations.

Curtis said planners also wanted to include students who did not return to Charlottesville this year, and although PILA was concerned about shipping costs, many recipients volunteered to pay for shipping and expenses. 

Organizers were surprised by the amount raised, despite not being able to sell tickets to the gala, and were grateful for law firms’ cash donations during an economic downturn.

“For us, it was just, let’s keep this going, let’s just do something to keep this tradition going, so that hopefully next year we can come back and do our big event,” Curtis 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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