$572,800 in PILA Grants Awarded to 143 Students Working in Public Interest This Summer

Students Collectively Volunteered More Than 9,100 Hours to Qualify
Cheema, McCoy, Seagears, Vanderpoel

Manal Cheema ’20, Blythe McCoy ’19, Erin Seagears ’20 and Nathan Vanderpoel ’19 are among 143 UVA Law students participating in summer public interest work this year.

May 8, 2018

The University of Virginia School of Law’s grant program supporting summer public interest work is giving out more money to more students than ever before this year. Taking on such problems as international terrorism, gang violence and the problems low-income children face, 143 students will receive $572,828 in funding.

The grants, which will benefit 126 first-year students and 17 second-year students, are awarded through a partnership between the Law School’s Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center and the student-run Public Interest Law Association. The Mortimer Caplin Public Service Fellowships and the Linda Fairstein Public Service Fellowships are the primary sources of funding. First-years receive $3,750 and second-years $6,500.

Student recipients are required to apply and qualify for the funding by volunteering their time for pro bono work — 40 hours for first-year students and 80 hours for second-year students. Grantees must also have secured a public service position and agree to donate hours back to PILA, which founded the grant program.

PILA holds a series of fundraising events each year, including an auction and book sale, to help raise money for grants.

“PILA is incredibly proud to provide grants to help take some of the financial burden off of students and to thereby make their public service goals that much more attainable,” said PILA President Cameron Duncan ’19. “And the arrangement is mutually beneficial. Students are able to give their intelligence and abilities to organizations that are often underfunded and understaffed and do real, meaningful work for those organizations and their clients.”

This year, students volunteered 9,149 hours, an average of 58 per student grantee.

“We pay for the things we value. We make sacrifices of our time and comfort,” said Annie Kim ’99, assistant dean for public service and director of the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center. “There’s no better statement of how UVA Law values public service than the work we do together as a community to fund PILA grants each year — PILA board members, PILA grantees, our generous alumni. This collective work has given thousands of students over the years their first chance to help others with the powerful legal skills they develop here.”

Over the summer, students will work in 46 U.S. cities, and one student will work internationally, in Johannesburg. Here’s a look at what four of the fellows have planned. (Full List)

Manal Cheema ’20

Hometown: Sharon, Massachusetts

College/education: Tufts University

Summer job: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Military Commissions, Washington, D.C.

What she’ll be doing: I will complete a wide variety of projects in the office, including legal research and writing on issues of criminal, international and constitutional law arising in military commissions cases; historical research on the use of military commissions; drafting legal briefs, motions, memoranda and other documents; and assisting with moot courts, press inquiries and professional training. I will be assisting trial teams and the motions and appeals section with legal research and writing projects involving international terrorism and law-of-war prosecutions. 

Goals: Working at the Office of Military Commissions, I hope to develop my knowledge of international law as it applies to armed conflict and war, and further my path into the practice of national security and international law. This internship will be critical in helping me decide between the civilian law route or the military law route after graduation, through exposure to practice.

Blythe McCoy ’19

Hometown: Davidson, North Carolina

College/education: Cornell University, bachelor’s in policy analysis and management

Summer job: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Washington, D.C.

What she’ll be doing: The Organized Crime and Gang Section works to combat organized crime by prosecuting significant organized crime groups operating in the U.S. Many of the prosecutions are under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations and Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering statutes. This summer, I will be doing legal research and writing, involving topics such as criminal procedure, evidence and application of the RICO statute.

Goals: My goal is to pursue a career in criminal prosecution, and that goal is what led me to law school. During this summer, I hope to gain insight on the specific area of federal criminal law relating to organized crime and gangs. 

Erin Seagears ’20

Hometown: Gainesville, Virginia

College/education: University of Virginia, B.A. in political and social thought

Summer job: Legal Aid Justice Center, Charlottesville

What she’ll be doing: I will be working in the JustChildren program helping low-income children who have unmet needs in the educational, foster care and juvenile justice systems. In addition to aiding in the free legal representation, I will also be working on JustChildren's reform efforts, like RISE, which focuses on getting children out of juvenile detention centers and back in their homes, receiving rehabilitation and support from community structures.

Goals: I want to serve the Legal Aid Justice Center by providing good and effective work, to help improve the lives of low-income children and families in need in Charlottesville, and to gain skills and experience that will better equip me to one day be an impactful and compassionate lawyer and advocate for vulnerable children and youth. More generally, my goals can be summed up in my life verses: Psalm 82:3-4, "Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

Nathan Vanderpoel ’19

Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia

College/education: Wheaton College (Illinois)

Summer job: Colorado State Public Defender’s Office, Brighton

What he’ll be doing: With my second-year practice certificate, I will be given several of my own misdemeanor criminal cases to manage myself from first appearance through trial. Beyond that, I will be assisting on other attorneys’ cases, conducting client interviews and doing legal research.

Goals: My main goal is to become comfortable standing up in court and speaking on the record regularly. Hopefully, I can get a few trials under my belt so that I am fully prepared to take all of my own cases going into a job next year as a public defender.

PILA Grant Employers, Summer 2018

Federal Government

Commodity Futures Trading Commission New York
Federal Communications Commission Washington, D.C.
Federal Election Commission Washington, D.C.
Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission Washington, D.C.
Federal Trade Commission Chicago
Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Competition (3) Washington, D.C.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Office of the Chief Prosecutor for Military Commissions Washington, D.C.
Transportation Security Administration Arlington, Va.
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California Los Angeles
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona Phoenix
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia (3) Washington, D.C.
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Delaware Wilmington, Del.
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland (2) Baltimore
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts Boston
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Oregon Portland, Ore.
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Carolina Greenville, S.C.
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York New York
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York , Criminal Division New York
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia (2) Alexandria, Va.
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida Tampa, Fla.
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida Orlando, Fla.
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Tennessee Nashville, Tenn.
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Texas (3) Dallas
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida West Palm Beach, Fla.
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York, Criminal Division New York
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia Charlottesville, Va.
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia Harrisonburg, Va.
U.S. Department of Justice (3) Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Appellate Staff Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, FTCA Section Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Fraud Section Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Voting Rights Section (2) Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section (2) Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Section Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Office of Enforcement Operations Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Organized Crime and Gang Section (2) Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Fraud Section Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division Denver
U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review Charlotte, N.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Programs Branch Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Tort Claims Act Section Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, National Courts Section (2) Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Chief Counsel, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of the Interior Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, Division of Parks and Wildlife Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, CAVC Litigation Group Washington, D.C.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5 Chicago
U.S. House of Representatives, Office of Congressman Dennis Ross Washington, D.C.
U.S. Navy JAG Corps Portsmouth, Va.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Denver
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (3) Washington, D.C.
U.S. Small Business Administration Washington, D.C.
U.S. Trade and Development Agency Washington, D.C.

International

South Africa Litigation Centre Johannesburg

Nonprofit Organizations

109 World Boulder, Colo.
ACLU of Delaware Wilmington, Del.
ACLU of Virginia Richmond, Va.
American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative Washington, D.C.
Animal Legal Defense Fund Cotati, Calif.
Ayuda Falls Church, Va.
Center for Democracy and Technology Washington, D.C.
CFA Institute Charlottesville, Va.
Community Legal Services Philadelphia
disAbility Law Center of Virginia Richmond, Va.
East Bay Sanctuary Covenant Berkeley, Calif.
Environmental Defense Fund Boulder, Colo.
Heritage Foundation Washington, D.C.
Legal Aid Justice Center (4) Charlottesville, Va.
Legal Aid Justice Center Richmond, Va.
Legal Aid Justice Center, Just Children Charlottesville, Va.
Legal Aid Society New York
Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School Boston
Legal Services of Northern Virginia Fairfax, Va.
Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law Washington, D.C.
Louisiana Center for Children's Rights New Orleans
Mobilization for Justice New York
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Washington, D.C.
National Fair Housing Alliance Washington, D.C.
National Public Radio Washington, D.C.
Prisoners' Legal Services of MA Boston
Southern Center for Human Rights Atlanta
Staten Island Legal Services New York
The Institute for Justice Austin, Texas
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) New York

Public Defenders

Alaska State Public Defender Anchorage, Alaska
Alexandria Public Defender's Office (2) Alexandria, Va.
Arlington County and City of Falls Church Public Defender Arlington, Va.
Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Defender's Office Charlottesville, Va.
Colorado State Public Defender's Office Brighton, Colo.
Federal Public Defender, Central District of California Los Angeles
Federal Public Defender, Eastern District of Virginia Alexandria, Va.
Federal Public Defender, Northern District of TX Dallas
Federal Public Defender, South District of Florida Miami
Federal Public Defender, Southern District of New York New York
Federal Public Defender, Western District of Virginia Charlottesville, Va.
Harlem Neighborhood Defender Services New York
Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Practice Manhattan Office New York
Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Juvenile Division Baltimore 
Metro-Nashville Public Defender's Office Nashville, Tenn.
Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (2) Washington, D.C.
Staunton Public Defender's Office Staunton, Va.
The Bronx Defenders New York
Virginia Indigent Defense Commission Richmond, Va.
Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, Capital Defender's Office Richmond, Va.

State and Local Government (Including Prosecution)

Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office Charlottesville, Va.
California Department of Justice Oakland, Calif.
Colorado Office of the Attorney General Denver
Los Angeles City Attorney's Office Los Angeles
Massachusetts Attorney General's Office Boston
New Jersey Attorney General, Securities Fraud Prosecution Section Newark, N.J.
New Jersey Division of Law Trenton, N.J.
New York County District Attorney New York
Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney's Office Newport News, Va.
North Carolina Department of Justice Attorney General's Office, Consumer Protection Division Raleigh, N.C.
Richmond Police Department, Office of General Counsel Richmond, Va.
San Francisco District Attorney's Office San Francisco
Suffolk County District Attorney's Office Boston
UVA Health Systems Charlottesville, Va.

Media Contact

Mike Fox
Director of Media Relations
mfox@law.virginia.edu / (434) 982-6832

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