Autumn 2008 Issue
Gates Scholars Speak: Reflections from the 1L Class
Two of our 1L students took a moment to reflect as they transition to the new realities of being law students. Being named a Gates Scholar has made the road to their dreams of a public service law career tangible.
From Wyatt Golding:
"I spent the weeks before applying for the Gates Scholarship nervously reading and rereading the biographies of previous scholarship recipients. A year later, I had the strange experience of meeting the Scholars and pretending that I didn't already know the details of their lives' work. I was prepared for their dedication to and experience in public service. I was not prepared for their commitment to positive change within the school itself. Only two years into the scholarship, and already Scholars have joined with other students to push for public service class offerings, organized a campaign to create a public service concentration track, started developing a training program for leadership skills in public service, and planned an international global climate change conference hosted by Gates PSL and the law school. It is exciting and humbling to join such a proactive and effective group. "
"There is a core of highly capable individuals at the law school beyond and including the Scholars that are dedicated to public service. Social Justice Tuesdays, Gates Lecture Series talks, and public service student organization meetings have all been full. There is a palpable energy in the 1L public service community. One aspect of the strength of this community is the stark line that defines it. The division between those interested in the public and private sector does not, however, accurately reflect the professional world, in which private pro bono work and corporate philanthropy play an important role. School has only been in session for a month and as we gain experience this division will hopefully erode."
Miranda Strong adds:
"I was entertained by the antics of rowdy undergraduates on my first trip to the UW campus gym. I felt comparatively mature until I remembered that just four months ago, I was an undergrad too. Law school has been so all-consuming that it feels as if years have gone by instead of months since my college graduation. The "1L tales" led me to expect a heavy workload, but I didn't anticipate enjoying the intellectual rigor of my first year classes this much. My decision to attend law school has been affirmed by the intellectual stimulation of the past five weeks."
"During the Foundations for Legal Studies that all 1Ls go through before classes begin, Professor Dwight Drake shared some advice with the class of 2011: Be proactive: find the client and the cause you want to serve. I came to the UW School of Law to become a legal change agent with the disability community to improve employment, special education, and respectful language. After five weeks of connecting with other public-interest-minded people at Social Justice Tuesdays, the Disability Law Alliance, and the rich social justice community here at the UWLS, it is apparent that UW Law students are proactive in choosing their causes. Public service law is not a fall-back career to these dedicated individuals that I have met and it is more than an occupation -- public interest law is a calling. No matter how many months or years have passed since I was an undergraduate, I hope to preserve my enthusiasm for social justice in this supportive culture, even through the grueling first year of law school."
From the World of Service: Vignettes from Summer 2008
The 2L and 3L Scholars had diverse internship experiences during the summer of 2008. Salmun Kazerounian, 2L, worked at the Loyola Law School Katrina Clinic in New Orleans Louisiana. Kazerounian particularly wanted to go to New Orleans to work on poverty issues. As he describes, this is exactly what he was able to achieve:
"Bicycling through the Lower 9th Ward is eerie. I'm told it used to be a densely populated neighborhood with a vibrant, tight community. Three years after Katrina, many homes are not yet gutted - let alone rebuilt - and large areas are haunted by loud silence. Despite repeated promises, adequate aid has not reached residents of the historic neighborhood."
"Congress has allocated more than $10 billion for Louisiana hurricane relief through the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant Program. To distribute these funds, Louisiana established the Road Home Program (RHP), to provide individual grants compensating Louisiana residents for damage to their homes."
"Interning at Loyola Law School's Katrina Clinic, I spent most of my summer, alongside staff attorney Davida Finger and community organizer Audrey Stewart, working with low-income individuals whose RHP grants provided insufficient rebuilding funds. Mismanagement and oppressive policies left thousands of Katrina survivors in this unfortunate situation, and our work at times felt like putting band-aids on stab-wounds."
"[I had the] opportunity to work with wonderful folks, each with a unique story, sometimes horribly painful but always inspiring. All told, we filed approximately 60 appeals and provided other limited assistance to many others. We ran outreach clinics at cafes and churches, worked with community organizations on campaigns to eliminate deadlines harmful to applicants and advocated for policy changes, wrote a report on the program's shortcomings, and produced and made available numerous template appeal letters. "
Another 2L, Netsanet Tesfay, spent her summer at the Urban Justice Center in New York City with the Sex Worker's Project. This project works with some extremely marginalized and vulnerable clients. Tesfay reports: "My internship started in late June and I worked primarily with [attorney] Sapna Patel on trafficking cases which are governed by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). TVPA is relatively new. Until its inception in 2000, the U.S. did not have a comprehensive law to address human trafficking. After 2000, victims of trafficking willing to cooperate with federal law enforcement were eligible to apply for a T-Visa which, if granted, provides three years lawful temporary status. After three years, a T-Visa holder may apply for permanent residency."
"I am eager to expand my area of knowledge and see how international factors impact domestic immigration law policies and reform. Trafficking thrives in countries with weak economies where government abuse is rampant. This makes it easy for traffickers to sell a dream to vulnerable men, women, and children who live in dire conditions. Thus immigration law reform does not only mean looking at the laws of the U.S. but it requires that we also look at the international factors (trade agreements etc.) that drive a system rooted in exploitation."
"While I enjoyed working on trafficking cases, it made me realize that, though I love immigration law, I am ready and eager to learn about a new area of the law. Doing so will not only help me develop a new set of skills but also assist me in making connections and intersections between different struggles."
During the summer of 2007, 3L Emily Alvarado traveled to Belfast Ireland to work with low income clients in need of representation. This summer she stayed closer to home and worked at the Legal Action Center, a small legal services organization in Seattle's Central Area. The Legal Action Center is aimed at preventing homelessness by offering preventive advice, negotiation and representation to preserve and improve landlord/tenant relationships. In addition to helping to coordinate a walk in clinic for low income people with landlord-tenant disputes, Alvarado also supported the organization's eviction defense litigation.
"Our offices received dozens of calls each week from people being evicted. The people who called were confused and vulnerable. I interviewed callers and had to turn away so many because they lacked a defense to the eviction: they were simply poor and could not pay rent. However, many callers were being evicted illegally: the eviction was procedurally defective (i.e. the client did not receive proper notice) or was substantively defective (i.e. the landlord evicted the client in derogation from reasonable accommodation laws). In most cases, I performed legal research, drafted pleadings and developed arguments to support the litigation. In a few cases, I represented the client in court, often leading to negotiated settlements."
"My internship taught me about myself as a public interest lawyer. My experience affirmed that I love direct advocacy and I have developed a passion for advocating on behalf of low-income clients. I like being a counselor. I like to see my client's face and know that I am making an impact in her or his life. I also learned that direct advocacy is extremely frustrating because so long as the underlying causes of poverty remain intact, an advocate is constrained in the social change that she can produce. That said, by seeing firsthand the way in which the law impacts low-income people, I feel more prepared to make broader policy changes. This summer alone, I have recognized two concrete, feasible legislative changes that would make housing law fairer for low-income people. I look forward to advocating for these changes in the future."
Gates Speakers and Programming, Fall 2008
Our first speaker of the year was Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, on September 29, 2008. More than 70 individuals attended this event. Our Scholars can best speak to the impact of this talk. 3L Colleen Melody shared her thoughts about this event:
"Listening to Vincent Warren's talk was a motivating way to start the school year. The Center for Constitutional Rights began fighting for the rights of Guantánamo detainees when it was politically unpopular, even among the usually-allied watchdog legal communities. There is nothing more inspiring to me than true stories of people standing up for what's right, even though they ended up standing alone. Mr. Warren and his colleagues worked on behalf of clients that literally had no one else, and their story of perseverance and incremental success was energizing and inspirational."
Nick Marritz is a 1L Gates Scholar and he was similarly moved, adding:
"What a privilege to meet a lawyer like Vince Warren in only my second week of law school. I'm inspired by CCR's ongoing work to bring the detention center at Guantánamo Bay under the full control of U.S. law and our bedrock principles of justice. I especially appreciated having the chance to ask Warren about CCR's representation of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen mistakenly sent to be tortured in Syria under the Bush Administration's policy of extraordinary rendition. Warren's efforts serve as a powerful check on those who would sacrifice fundamental legal rights in the name of national security. Hearing his talk was an incredible way to start my law school education."
Gates PSL is proud to sponsor three more speaker events this quarter, Judge Richard Paez, Karen Hanrahan , and John McKay and Don Horowitz . Keep an eye on our website to stay up to speed on all Gates PSL-sponsored events.
We are pleased to once again team with the UWLS Student Bar Association, the Public Interest Law Student Association and many other law student organizations in presenting Social Justice Tuesdays.
Our sessions this year include "The Public Service Survival Guide", "Documentary Films: A New Approach to Social Justice Advocacy", "The Candidates Prescriptions: McCain and Obama on Health Care Reform "and ""History in the Making: Race, Gender and 2008 Presidential Elections".
What's ahead? The Gates PSL Program is supporting a student-driven effort to present a major conference this May 28-29, 2009, "The Law of Climate Change & Human Rights." Many practitioners and scholars from environmental, human rights and international organizations as well as schools of law, public health and sciences have already agreed to participate in this event. More information will be available shortly on the conference site.
New Scholars Every Year…
Integral to the Gates Program is our ability to provide full tuition-plus scholarships to five incoming law students each year. These dedicated students make a commitment to practice in a public service law setting for a minimum of five years after graduating. This June will be special as we'll be graduating the first class of Scholars.
The deadline for Gates Scholarship applications for the class to begin fall 2009 is January 15 2009. During Candidate Selection Weekend April 3-4, 2009, we will interview 20-25 of the top candidates. If you know any promising law school candidates who desire a public service law career send them our way by referring them to our application page or contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
This Program exists because of a generous donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in honor of Bill Gates Sr.,'50. His commitment to public service has never wavered and neither will ours. Every November we think of him fondly because his birthday month marks the anniversary of this Program's creation. Happy Birthday Bill Sr.!