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Gates Public Service Law News

Fall 2007 Issue

Welcome to the William H. Gates Public Service Law Program

William H. Gates and the Class of 2009 Gates PSL ScholarsWelcome to the first edition of the Gates PSL Newsletter.  The University of Washington School of Law is a premier institution committed to excellence in teaching, scholarship, and public service.

The law school’s identity statement recognizes that law “is a calling in the spirit of public service.” Thus we provide opportunities for students to participate in law reform and public service work. Law students have a minimum public service commitment as a requirement for graduation. This pro bono requirement is just one of the many things that distinguishes the UW School of Law and we were one of the first law schools in the nation to develop such a requirement.

This demonstrated commitment to public service led to the funding and creation of the law school’s Gates Public Service Law Program (Gates PSL Program).

Created in honor of William H. Gates Sr., ’50, a prominent Washington state attorney and public servant, this program awards five scholarships on an annual basis to first year students entering the UW School of Law J.D. program.

Each Gates PSL scholarship award covers tuition, books, costs of room and board and summer stipends to support public service law work.  Acceptance of a Gates PSL scholarship represents a commitment on the part of each Scholar to work in public service for five years following graduation.

Public service law work can take many forms: from the criminal justice system, to civil legal aid, to government service and work for NGOs.  A significant goal of the program is to reduce debt burden for promising law students so that they can use their degrees to benefit the public good through law.

Who are the Scholars in the Class of 2010?

William H. Gates and the Class of 2010 Gates PSL ScholarsThe Gates PSL Program selected its second class of Scholars during the spring of 2007 and they began classes in fall 2007.

Michael Geoghegan is an honors graduate from Brown University; Geoghegan has worked the past seven years to address the impact of global production shifts on local economies.  Geoghegan worked as a community and labor organizer, moving to Oregon in 2001 where he directed the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. There, he created the Stories Project, which led him to a year and a half of traveling across the Northwest to talk to over one hundred small business owners, family farmers, and laid-off workers.

Geoghegan states, “With a law degree, I could apply my social justice skills at the policy and legislative level and make a great difference for those in need.”

Meena Jagannath hopes to work with human rights and juvenile justice issues, particularly those that affect urban youth, both domestically and abroad.  Jagannath received her bachelor’s degree in international relations and peace and justice studies from Tufts University and then went on to the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, where she received her master’s degree. She has worked for the last five years with various international human rights organizations, her most recent position was with the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

A childhood visit to her parents’ native India first raised her awareness of social injustice. Coming face-to-face with extreme poverty was a profound experience, but it was working with lawyers on a genocide case in Guatemala, she said, that inspired her to go to law school.   “My master’s degree gave me the background to understand the fundamental theories on which human rights are based. A law degree will give me additional tools to strengthen the voice of the disenfranchised.”

Salmun Kazerounian is clear on why he wanted to attend law school: “I will use a legal education to defend the interests of the ignored, forsaken, and oppressed, who are neither few nor far."

Kazerounian graduated the University of Connecticut in May, and has worked for a number of social justice causes, including labor, human rights, the environment, community and student empowerment, and accessibility and diversity in education. He also served as the undergraduate student representative to the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees.   He noted that “It was the commitment to public service through offering the Gates Scholarship that led me to apply to the UW School of Law.”

Jennifer Krencicki Barcelos has been active on environmental issues since childhood.  She became particularly drawn to the intersection of war and the environment as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, after learning of evidence that linked the Dust Bowl to WWI.

“After that, I became fascinated with the environmental impacts of conflict and how environmental atrocities are so closely linked to human rights,” she said.  After completing her master’s degree in Environmental Science from Yale University in December, she traveled the country giving Nobel Peace Prize recipient Vice President Al Gore’s global warming presentation as a volunteer with the Climate Project. As a lawyer she hopes to successfully make the case for getting the world community to understand the relationship between the environment and human rights.

Netsanet Tesfay is a graduate of the UW with a degree in political science, Tesfay worked at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle before coming to law school.

Born in Ethiopia during a civil war, Tesfay’s earliest memories are of the imprisonment of her father, a schoolteacher, by the Ethiopian government. This experience and her family’s subsequent immigration to the United States fostered her commitment to building a career fighting for human rights.

“There are so many barriers to accessing legal services for low-income immigrants,” she said. “I applied to law school so I could make a difference by securing and defending their opportunities to obtain and maintain legal status.”

What the Class of 2009 Scholars Did Last Summer

Each of the members of the inaugural Scholar’s class of 2009 secured an exciting public service law summer internship during the summer of 2007.  The Scholars found themselves in locations all over the world from Emily Alvarado’s placement at the Law Centre Northern Ireland in Belfast, Ireland as a William Sampson fellow to New York City where Vanessa Torres Hernandez spent the summer at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Two Scholars secured positions in the city of Seattle, Ilana Mantell at the Seattle Office of the Federal Public Defender and Mike Peters at Columbia Legal Services, a statewide civil legal aid organization.  Colleen Melody rounded out the picture with a summer internship at National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Colleen Melody, Class of 2009The Scholars each provided feedback about the opportunities they had this summer.  In her reflections about her summer Colleen Melody noted:

“After spending the summer at the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, I realized how much I enjoy working on a combination of direct services provision and impact litigation.  I spent most of my time with the Adult Detention Project, where I directly represented immigrants during removal proceedings in the Chicago Immigrations and Customs Enforcement District, comprised of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas and Nebraska.  I worked on dozens of cases, interviewing prospective clients, preparing affidavits, doing research, prepping witnesses and writing motions.  Additionally, I had three cases of my own, in which I handled from the initial interview at the detention center all the way to the merits hearing—the final hearing in an immigrants' application for relief from deportation.

The combination of doing both litigation and direct services is ideal for me.  There is urgency and importance in helping detained immigrants get out of DHS custody, but successful litigation could ideally help those detentions from happening in the first place!  I had a fantastic summer at NIJC, and am already dreaming of the world of daily client contact.”

Excerpts from other student’s reflections will be shared in future newsletters.

Gates PSL Speaker Series

John TetonA core component of the Gates PSL Program is the programming it offers to the entire law school, university and broader community.  The Gates PSL Speaker Series introduces the law school community and others outside the law school to information about the many ways attorneys can serve the public good. 

Speakers who have participated in our program in the past include retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who provided our inaugural speech in November 2006, former US Attorney for the Western District of Washington John McKay, Professor Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School, Deborah Ellis, Assistant Dean for Public Interest Law, New York University, Alex Busansky of the Vera Institute, and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.

The first speaker of the 2007-2008 academic year was John Teton, the director of the International Food Security Treaty Campaign.  The IFST is an effort to create an enforceable international treaty requiring countries to ensure every citizen without access will be able to have nutritious food. 

Gates PSL Monthly Seminars, Social Justice Tuesdays and More

The Gates PSL monthly lunchtime seminars provide for all law students and others who are able to come the opportunity to engage in conversation with local practitioners about important issues in public service law practice.  Gates PSL-sponsored seminars in the fall quarter included: “So you want to do public service: The law school survival guide” and “Education and Integration: A Discussion about the Supreme Court's Rulings in Seattle and Louisville.” Both included panelists from the community who are local advocates actively engaged in public interest work. 

A public service seminar luncheonAs a part of our commitment to provide public service information through our monthly seminars, Gates PSL has partnered with more than twenty student organization at the law school to offer “Social Justice Tuesdays.” (SJT) This collaboration began, in part, because students expressed a desire to have more opportunities to learn about various public service careers and advocacy areas.  Further, students craved the opportunity to build community with other law students who care deeply about public service.

Therefore in addition to the Gates PSL lunchtime seminars every second Tuesday of the month, other student organizations provide public interest programming on all the other Tuesdays while school is in session.  As a result of this partnership, law students who care about public service and social justice have the chance to join with their community to learn and share information on a wide range of topics from environmental issues to child advocacy to immigration rights.  Student groups who participate include the Public Interest Law Association (PILA), Greenlaw, Law Women’s Caucus, Minority Law Students Association, Center for Human Rights and Justice and many others.  Gates PSL supports the weekly programming in a variety of ways so that the overall public service community is strengthened.  SJT has experienced a phenomenal response: attendance has ranged from 75 to 100 students at each Tuesday session.

Gates PSL is continuing its partnership begun in early 2007 with the Center for Career Planning and Public Service to offer quarterly public service dinners as well.  The main focus of these events is the opportunity for students, faculty, staff and alumni to get together, enjoy a good meal and share their common interests in public service law.   A community speaker attends and shares words of wisdom with those in attendance.  On November 14, 2007, UWLS graduate Judge Robert Lasnik joined the group and shared insights about his career and public service.

Stay tuned for more information about our activities in future newsletters.

Check Out "Public Service Voices"

Gates HallThe Gates PSL Program aims to help create a stronger public service community at the law school.  As students expressed their desires to know more about what practitioners in the community really do to promote public service and equal justice, Gates PSL created the "Public Service Voices" series on line.  "PS Voices" is a series of essays (and sometimes student-led interviews) by people practicing law and doing significant public service.  The first essay entitled “The Gratitude-Driven Practice” was authored by Jason Vail, an attorney at the Northwest Justice Project in Washington and also a member of the Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors. 

In his essay Vail opines,

“we all recognize that as attorneys we have extremely valuable problem-solving capabilities that are desperately needed every day by many who cannot obtain them. These skills have come to us not as a matter of right; though we certainly earned them, the opportunity to obtain our legal aptitude is, in large part, the product of good fortune in our individual lives. There are so many ways we can share our expertise with those who have been not so fortunate. All it takes is giving of our time in some way, whether to a charity, a pro bono program, a community organization, a non-profit board, a bar association project, a legal services office, or simply taking a case without charging a fee. Through the giving of our talents, we discover their true value and thereby can experience a stronger sense of appreciation for what we have received. We may then ultimately be less inclined to question why we became lawyers and instead find satisfaction in work motivated by an authentic sense of thankfulness and gratitude.”

The series can be found online at:

Happy Birthday to Bill Gates Sr.!

William H. Gates and UW law studentsIt was on the occasion of William H. Gates Sr.'s '50 (Bill) eightieth birthday in November of 2005 that this Program was created.  This birthday gift in honor of Bill Sr. became a tremendous present for each of the Scholars who now have the opportunity to pursue their public service law dreams without the burden of law school debt. 

But the real gift is much larger than that, if you can imagine.  With the programming and the opportunity to enhance the law school community that this Program offers, a birthday present to Bill Sr. has become a boon to the entire law school community and all those who will be served by our graduates and employees.  Happy Birthday Bill Sr.!

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