Law Students Rewarded for Commitment to Public Service
During a year when students documented more than 10,000 pro bono hours — an increase of more than 1,000 hours and a 35 percent jump in participation from last year — second-year law students Pat Lavelle and Katie Bagley stood out, making their marks in the fields of workers' rights and international human rights, and criminal law, respectively. Lavelle received the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Fellowship and Bagley garnered the Linda A. Fairstein Public Service Fellowship this year, both of which grant $5,000 for three years. They reflected on their experiences before heading off to summer jobs.
2004 Mortimer Caplin Public Service Fellow
Public service activities at the law school/during summers: Since coming to law school, I've focused to a certain degree on workers' rights and international human rights. I spent last summer in New York at the legal department of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE), a union that represents low-wage garment, industrial laundry, and home-care workers. There I had the opportunity to speak with workers coerced or fired for exercising their rights, and to help them make unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. I also drafted a paper presented to the American Bar Association's Labor and Employment Law Section and participated in research for an Alien Tort Claims Act case involving coercive labor conditions in Saipan. This summer I'll be doing a mix of direct services and employment discrimination class actions at the Legal Aid Employment Law Center in San Francisco.
At law school, I've been involved in PILA and National Lawyers' Guild and the Conference on Public Service and the Law, as well as the International Human Rights Law Clinic, and have participated in pro bono projects for EarthRights International, AFL-CIO, and the Immigrant Detention Project.
Public service activities pre-law school (if any): During and after college, I spent several years dabbling in a bunch of different things. I did research and community education on welfare reform in Minnesota one summer, and helped organize hotel workers in Cleveland another with the AFL-CIO's Union Summer. I worked for a year for the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting government and corporate whistleblowers, doing legal intake and policy research and writing on both the World Trade Organization (just before the WTO's meetings in Seattle) and assorted mishaps involving nuclear waste. After that, I spent the next two years at nonprofits in Seattle committed to helping low- and moderate-income people attain affordable housing, doing outreach, grant writing, volunteer coordination, and research. Then I quit, went to South America for a couple of months, and came to Virginia.
What interested you in law and public service? Public service was something I've been drawn to for a long time; that's due, probably, to some combination of hearing stories about my grandfather (who organized railroad clerks in Sacramento), a Jesuit high-school education, and other people and experiences along the way that convinced me that far too many people get a raw deal in ways at least partially attributable to bad law and social policies. I figured law might be a good way to pursue activism because of the intellectual challenge involved in practice, because having a J.D. opens doors, and because it's a relatively stable career.
Favorite public-service oriented class? Probably the International Human Rights Law Clinic.
Best experience in public service? Hmm, that's a tough one. Getting a chance to do work with EarthRights International on behalf of Doe v. Unocal(the Alien Tort Claims Act case involving severe abuses in Burma ) was pretty neat, if only because the case is at the forefront of legal history in holding American corporations accountable for human rights abuses they commit overseas. I'm going to Jordan later this month to interview workers for a human rights report through the International Human Rights Law Clinic, which should be pretty cool, too.
Any special plans for your award? I haven't decided just yet. Nothing too glamorous. Maybe a down payment for a condo or a fixer-upper.
2004 Linda A.Fairstein Public Service Fellow
Public service activities at the law school/during summers: Last year, I worked on an ongoing pro bono project for a local domestic violence shelter. I spent the summer in the criminal division of a U.S. Attorney's Office. This year, I was the Manager for the Conference on Public Service & the Law, which was very time-consuming but turned out to be worth all the work. I also did some pro bono work for a local attorney on an appeal to the Fourth Circuit for an indigent defendant. It dealt with search & seizure law, so it ended up being a great way to study for my criminal investigation class. I'm also a student assistant at the Public Service Center. This summer, I'll be interning with my hometown DA's office, and hopefully gaining lots of courtroom experience.
What interested you in law and public service? I loved graduate school, but realized the ivory tower wasn't for me. I worked as an editor at Lexis while I was looking around for a new career, and realized I really enjoyed reading the judicial opinions I was editing and understanding the legal reasoning involved, so I decided to try law school. I knew I would go into public service — I believe all attorneys have a responsibility to contribute to the public good, plus, public service careers offer young lawyers more responsibility and challenges than a private firm.
Favorite public-service oriented class? There have been a lot, but I really enjoyed my International Criminal Law seminar this spring. Not only did we cover lots of interesting practical and policy issues, but the instructor, an attorney at DOJ, made a point of encouraging students to consider public service careers.
Best experience in public service? My internship at the U.S. Attorney's. The work was interesting, and I felt that I was able to make a real contribution. Instead of research memos, I was able to write motions and briefs that went directly to the judge and helped determine the outcome of a case or a defendant's sentence. Plus, I enjoyed working with federal law enforcement agents to put a case together. I worked with ATF, FBI, DEA, Border Patrol, state and tribal police — even a U.S. Postal Inspector. It definitely confirmed that I want to work as a prosecutor.
Any special plans for your award? Not unless bar review classes are special.