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Bar Journal - Fall 2004

Public Interest Coalition Fellowships: Legal Community Supports Public-Sector Law Internships

By:
 

The Public Interest Coalition at the Franklin Pierce Law Center is a student organization dedicated to increasing awareness of and promoting the practice of public interest law. PIC members do not receive academic credit for their activities. PIC educates members about public interest career opportunities and exposes the Pierce Law community to public interest law issues. An important part of its mission is to encourage and assist Pierce Law in promoting loan forgiveness programs in order to encourage and facilitate public interest law careers. Also, PIC (along with the Social Justice Institute and the Office of Career Services) helps students obtain summer employment in the public interest area by providing information on programs such as Equal Justice Works and by sponsoring the annual PIC Auction which funds the Public Interest Law Fellowship Program..

For the past 12 years, Pierce Law's Public Interest Coalition has awarded Fellowships to selected law students for summer internships with public-sector or public-interest organizations and agencies. The fellowships provide students with stipends which help cover living expenses, and are awarded only to interns who will be working at organizations financially unable to pay a summer law intern. Currently, each full fellowship provides a $3,000 summer stipend.

The students in PIC are primarily responsible for funding the program and a major focus of their fundraising efforts is centered on organizing the annual Public Interest Coalition Auction held each spring. On March 19, 2004, the 12th Annual PIC Auction was held, raising a record breaking $46,000 for public interest fellowships. The amount of money and attendance at the event has grown over the years, from $6,000 in its first year to $46,000 in 2004. Accordingly, the amount awarded in full fellowships has also grown. Originally a full fellowship was $2,000, growing to $2,500 and then to the present amount of $3,000. At the current funding level, a Public Interest Fellowship funded internship is a viable summer option for more and more law students committed to public service. Students may also apply for partial fellowships to fund part-time public interest internships. Fellowships are awarded based on merit and strength of the student's application, as well as on Auction participation.

The 2004 PIC Auction was co-chaired by students, Melissa Penson '05, Sarah Fox '05, Katherine Morneau '05 and Sam Sumitani '05. Their organization and leadership led PIC to its all-time fellowship fund raising record. The PIC Co-chairs themselves contributed in excess of 400 hours to this very successful event. In addition to the efforts of the PIC co-chairs, over 30 student volunteers worked on the last PIC auction, contributing in excess of 700 hours to the cause. 2005 PIC Auction Co-Chairs are Mary Krueger '06, Melissa Puett '06, Karen O'Connor '06 and Vinod Shankar '06.

The next Auction will take place on Friday, March 18th at the Courtyard Marriott Grappone Conference Center in Concord.

Pierce Law's Public Interest Fellowship Program has established a record of demonstrated success, fulfilling PIC's mission of promoting the practice of public interest law. In the first eight years of the Fellowship Program, an average of five to seven student fellowships were funded annually. Over the past several years, interest and support for the program have grown, both within the Pierce Law community of students, staff, faculty and administration, and within the New Hampshire Bar. The number of Pierce Law students seeking public interest service has steadily grown while community support for PIC's Fellowship Program has increased. In 2001, seven students applied for and were awarded Public Interest Fellowships. In 2004, 13 PIC Fellowships were awarded, exposing more law students to the personal fulfillment and professional challenges of public sector law work as well as providing a much-needed boost to the efforts of these organizations.

Below is a list of agencies and organizations served by prior Pierce Law Public Interest Fellows. Because these organizations and agencies are unable to afford summer law employees, the clients and causes they serve would remain unserved without Pierce Law's Public Interest Fellowship Program. The Fellowship Program has done much to provide necessary assistance to the under-served. Importantly, the program has also inspired growing numbers of law students to explore the world of public interest law and has strengthened their commitment to public interest service through summer experiences funded by PIC Fellowships.

And a special thanks to those organizations and individuals who have generously supported the PIC Fellowships. They have been honored with named fellowships, as indicated below.

Author

Brigette Siff Holmes is director of the Social Justice Institute at Franklin Pierce Law Center. Admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 1988. She worked for several years at the NH Public Defender and served as deputy clerk in the Merrimack County Superior Court before joining the faculty at Pierce Law.

Public Interest Fellowship list of prior placements:

National Endowment for the Arts

International Human Rights Law Group, Sarajevo, Bosnia

Bucks County Legal Aid (PA)

San Francisco Public Defender

Marin County District Attorney (CA)

The Author's Guild, NYC (NY)

US Attorney's Office, Buffalo, NY

US Dept. of Justice, Environmental Enforcement Division

Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, AL

Monroe County District Attorney, Rochester, NY

State of Missouri Attorney General's Office - Mental Health Division

Alaska Public Defender

New Hampshire Public Defender

New Hampshire Legal Assistance

Broward County (FL) Public Defender

US Dept of Justice - Environment and Natural Resource Division

Carroll County Atty's Office (NH)

CT Atty General- Dept of Environmental Protection

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe - SD

New Hampshire Legal Assistance

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Saratoga County District Atty (NY)

New Hampshire Citizen's Alliance

New Hampshire Human Right's Commission

New Hampshire Farm Bureau

ME Civil Liberties Union

New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union

Rockingham County Atty (NH)

Alternatives for Community and Environment (MA)

Pinetree Legal Assistance (ME)

US Atty's Office - San Diego

New Hampshire Disabilities Rights Center

New Hampshire Chapter of the National Education Association

Greater Boston Legal Services - Elder Law Unit

New Hampshire Right to Marry Coalition

Prince George's County (MD) Public Defender

Queens County District Attorney's Office (NY)

Palm Beach County Public Defender

Bet Tzedek Legal Services (CA)

The Way Home (Manchester)

Cleveland Legal Aid (Ohio)

Hillsborough County Attorney's Office

Okinawan Child-Support (agency start-up)

Texas Civil Rights Project, Austin, TX

Council for Responsible Genetics, Cambridge, MA

U.S. Department of Justice: Consumer Protection & Antitrust Bureau

New Hampshire Community Reinvestment Association

Cambridge & Somerville Legal Services, Immigration Unit (MA)

Pueblo Indian Legal Services, Inc. (NM)

New Hampshire Human Rights Commission

U.S. Department of Justice: Environment & Natural Resources Division (DC)

Committee for Public Counsel Services, Boston, MA

Lakes Region Conservation Trust, Meredith, NH

U.S. Attorney's Office, Boston, MA

Massachusetts Dept of Environmental Protection (MA)

Connecticut State Attorney's Office, Hartford, CT

New Hampshire Legal Assistance, Senior Citizens' Law Project

Belknap County Attorney's Office, Laconia, NH

The UN War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

New Hampshire Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence,

New Hampshire Attorney Generalís ó Consumer Protection, Criminal, and Environmental Bureaus

Education-A-Must

Omaha (Nebraska) Drug Court

Merrimack County Attorney's Office

New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Women and NH Dept of Education (Joint Project)

 

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