2012 Summer Stipend Recipient Stories
Zachariah Baker, 2L— US Department of: Environment and Natural Resources Division, Sacramento, CA
Having come to law school to develop the legal knowledge and tools necessary to protect the environment, I wanted to spend my first law school summer working in the public interest environmental law arena. Receiving an OLSPIF stipend allowed me to do just that.
As a summer law clerk with the United States Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), I had the opportunity to work in the largest environmental law firm in the country. Based in the ENRD’s regional field office in Sacramento, I took part in their efforts to defend federal agency land and resource management decisions. I researched legal issues in the areas of water law, Fifth Amendment takings, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and public natural resources law. Much of this research served as the basis for briefs and motions for the courts (some of which I had the opportunity to write).
Being able to participate in and experience environmental litigation first-hand this past summer was invaluable. The experience has only strengthened my interest in environmental law and reaffirmed my commitment to protecting the environment. Without an OLSPIF stipend, it would have been much harder for me to pursue this experience, and I am very thankful.
Elizabeth Berg, 2L—Oregon Supreme Court, Salem, OR
With the aid of an OLSPIF stipend, I had the opportunity to work as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Robert Durham at the Oregon Supreme Court. During the course of my clerkship, I researched a variety of state and federal legal issues relating to criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, marital dissolutions, and other civil claims. At this advanced stage of litigation, many of the claims I researched presented complex legal questions, allowing me to sharpen my legal reasoning skills and exciting my inner intellectual. The entire clerkship experience is an invaluable contribution to my legal education that has advanced my practical legal skills and expanded my career interests.
Most importantly, I developed a mentor/mentee relationship with Justice Durham. His insights enhanced my ability to “peer behind the curtain” and spot key legal issues, whether procedural or substantive, which were critical to the resolution of the legal question at hand. Most importantly, the advice I received from Justice Durham has been instrumental to my understanding of the legal system and effective client advocacy.
My clerkship also impressed upon me the significance of being in a position to advocate for an individual’s rights and liberties. The skills needed to perform the essential lawyering function of working with people cannot be developed in a classroom. Without programs like OLSPIF, many students may not be able to take advantage of summer opportunities that allow them to work with the people who we as aspiring lawyers hope to serve and represent someday. Thank you to the dedicated faculty, students, and donors who make the summer stipend program possible.
Alex Biddle, 2L—Our Children’s Trust, Eugene, OR
Clerking at Our Children’s Trust this summer afforded me a profound and rewarding opportunity to work on behalf of children and future generations. I was able to serve the public interest by advocating for judicial action to hold governments accountable for the protection of the atmosphere as a public trust resource.
I wrote memos, briefs, rule-making petitions, and FOIA requests on behalf of Our Children’s Trust. I read scientific papers on climate change, worked on public outreach efforts, interviewed climate law scholars, researched climate litigation history, and tracked the progress of actions we have undertaken across the United States. The breadth of experience I had this summer covered the law of both federal and state court systems. I learned the process of appealing both agency and court decisions. Because Our Children’s Trust operates an interstate and international legal campaign, I gained experience in coordinating legal actions at a distance. Without OLSPIF’s stipend I would not have been able to afford this rewarding educational and professional opportunity. Because of OLSPIF, I am now well on my way towards developing a rewarding public interest career.
Robert Davis, 2L- Lane County Legal Aid and Advocacy Center, Eugene, OR
This summer I received an OLSPIF stipend to intern with the Lane County Legal Aid and Advocacy Center (LCLAAC). I performed intake interviews with potential clients, which taught me how how to deal with a wide range of clients, how to manage client expectations, and also the kinds of questions to ask depending on the legal issues the client presented.
I also handled cases, and I personally represented two clients in unemployment appeal hearings with a supervising attorney in the room. My experience this summer made me realize that public service is a feasible career and a desirable way to utilize a legal education. While I learned much in terms of furthering my legal education, the more important lesson was how vital low-income legal services are to people on the edges of survival. It is truly a rewarding feeling to be thanked by someone who thought they had no legal recourse due to their financial situation.
Without OLSPIF, I wouldn’t have been able to have this experience due to budget constraints at LCLAAC. I am very proud to be on the OLSPIF board of directors, knowing first-hand what type of work OLSPIF makes possible. I am also continuing to volunteer at LCLAAC during the school year because I believe so strongly in its mission.
Lauren Eldridge, 2L—American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Eugene, OR
With the help of an OLSPIF stipend, I spent the summer working as a legal intern for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon. The ACLU of Oregon is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. I conducted research and drafted legal memoranda on a broad variety of legal issues ranging from Oregon and federal constitutional law to immigration and administrative law. On several occasions, I was able to participate directly in the litigation process and interact with clients. Through this experience, I gained both exposure to new areas of the law and valuable insight into the role of advocacy in the litigation process.
Many of my projects focused on the rights of criminal defendants and inmates in local jails. These projects provided me with greater perspective on the extreme lack of resources available to indigent criminal defendants and inmates. It also illuminated the fundamental importance of due process protections to the concept of justice. Overall, the experience reaffirmed my commitment to public service and the promotion of equal access to justice.
Because the ACLU employs a legal staff of only two attorneys, legal interns are of vital importance to the functioning of the organization and the pursuit of its goals. Without the help of an OLSPIF stipend, I would not have been able to pursue this opportunity.
Basil El-Ghazzawy, 2L—Civil Liberties Defense Center, Eugene, OR
My internship with the Civil Liberties Defense Center was an invaluable and eye-opening experience that would not have been possible without an OLSPIF stipend.
Over the course of the summer, I learned what it means to be a civil rights attorney. As an intern, I attended depositions, observed court proceedings, and assisted with subpoenas, piles of discovery, and legal research and writing. Through this experience, I learned about municipal liability and also drafted outreach materials concerning 4th Amendment Search and Seizure rights. Finally, I participated in assisting a Native tribe protest against the U.S. Forest Service.
I came to law school with vague notions of “infinite justice” and “fighting the good fight.” Working with the CLDC has cemented my dedication to preserving the strength and vitality of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. and state constitutions. As important, I gained valuable insight into the economics of practicing law and running a nonprofit. In large part to working with the CLDC, I will forever look back fondly on the summer of 2012.
Laura Fishman, 2L— Center for Families, Children & the Courts, San Francisco, CA
This past summer, I was thrilled to work for the Center for Families, Children & the Courts (CFCC). Together, both CFCC and the Oregon Law Students Public Interest Fund gave me the opportunity to do public interest work just out of my first year of law school. With this government agency, I was able to work toward improving the quality of justice and services to meet the diverse needs of children, youth, parents, families, and other users of the California courts.
Attorneys who work with CFCC provide information to California self-help centers, which supply court users with online resources, multimedia legal materials, and publications on juvenile and family court proceedings. CFCC also conducts research for the development of court policy, strategy and effective programs. I did legal research on various family-law-related projects in their San Francisco office. This included projects on reforming juvenile sex offender registration laws in California and on granting parents greater access to visitation with their children during dependency cases. I also worked directly with the Tribal Projects Unit of AOC and helped the department prepare for a symposium on California’s tribal courts, which will take place in October.
I was happy to have worked with CFCC this past summer because the experience allowed me to greatly improve my legal research and writing skills and develop meaningful connections with attorneys in an area of law that I am interested in. Without the OLSPIF stipend, I would not have been able to do an unpaid internship in the expensive area of San Francisco. Thus, I thank the members of OLSPIF and their outstanding commitment to public service for giving me the opportunity to do this public interest work.
Lindsay Gaesser, 3L—Center for Biological Diversity, San Francisco, CA
I spent this past summer working as a law clerk for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in San Francisco where I experienced the complexity of environmental litigation and the responsibility of representing the public interest. As one of the nation’s leading endangered species advocacy organizations, CBD is dedicated to combatting global warming and protecting imperiled animals, plants and habitats.
Through law, science, and the media, CBD is able to further its goals of protecting the environment and acting as a catalyst for change. My background in marine biology, journalism, and law enabled me to effectively apply my knowledge and interest in marine science and conservation issues. In turn, I was able to make a positive contribution to regulation enforcement, prevention strategies, and challenges to government and corporate proposals that could impact the environment. At CBD, I conducted issue-specific legal research, drafted and edited briefs, comment letters, and notices of intent to sue, while working with attorneys and expert scientists in multiple jurisdictions. One of my favorite projects involved researching and writing a petition to list three species of reef sharks under the Endangered Species Act.
My time at CBD was both empowering and inspiring. Clerking for CBD supports my career goal of working in a nonprofit setting as a legal advocate for issues pertaining to climate change and protection of the ocean ecosystem. This position further developed my skills and awareness. In addition, this experience enabled me to expand a personal community of lawyers and activists, which will help me to serve the public interest when it comes to environmental issues.
Allison Knight, 2L—Capital Habeas Unit, Federal Defender, Sacramento, CA
This past summer, I served as a legal research and writing intern for the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Sacramento where I worked primarily on post-conviction death penalty cases that had already gone through the direct appeal and state habeas process. In other words, the clients at this office have exhausted all state post-conviction remedies and are seeking relief in federal court. My job was to support the attorneys as they wrote briefs to assist clients seeking new trials.
I studied psychology as an undergraduate student and came to law school specifically interested in how mental health issues play a role in criminal justice. Much of my summer research involved competency to stand trial, and how mental health evidence could have played a role in the mitigation phase of the original trial. I developed an understanding of the challenges facing people with mental health issues as they navigate the criminal justice system. As a result, I am inspired to work to increase these individuals’ access to appropriate care.
During my summer internship, my supervising attorney was involved in a direct challenge to the constitutionality of the California death penalty system. I was able to help with an exhibit exploring that issue that will hopefully contribute to a remedy. Although I gained a tremendous amount from the content of my work, I learned the most from the attorneys with whom I worked. I was inspired by their unyielding commitment to representing their clients, no matter how late the hour or dire the circumstances. This OLSPIF stipend gave me the opportunity to dedicate as much time as possible to assisting indigent defendants facing capital punishment.
Martie McQuain, 3L—Lane County Legal Aid and Advocacy Center, Eugene, OR
The OLSPIF stipend that I was awarded allowed me to pursue a full-time unpaid internship position at Lane County Legal Aid and Advocacy Center over the summer of 2012. This organization helps clients with limited resources with legal issues that do not typically generate attorney’s fees.
While at Lane County Legal Aid, I was able to hone my client interviewing skills. I negotiated settlements, researched case law and statutes, and appeared at administrative hearings on behalf of clients. I carried my own case load with legal issues such as landlord/tenant disputes, consumer protection, public benefits, disability law, employment law, and debtor/creditor law. I prevailed in defending a local couple against a large, local, predatory lender in a lawsuit, I was successful in an administrative hearing awarding unemployment benefits to another client, and I defended a half-dozen tenants in eviction proceedings.
Being awarded an OLSPIF stipend allowed me to gain valuable and real experience while serving those in the community who have the least access to justice.
Ariel Nelson, 3L— Multnomah Defenders Inc., Portland, OR
Prior to law school, I worked as a legal assistant at the Multnomah Defenders, Inc (MDI), a nonprofit law firm in Portland. MDI contracts with the state to provide court appointed criminal defense services to indigent clients. My experience working at MDI inspired me to attend law school, and I entered school knowing that I wanted a legal career in some form of public interest law. MDI usually does not have the funding to employ summer law students, so I am incredibly grateful to have received an OLSPIF stipend to return to MDI and gain skills as a court-certified law student.
Over the course of my summer internship, I gained tremendous court experience, representing over 25 clients, and covering hearings for many more. The majority of my cases involved violation of restraining orders; however, I also handled probation violations and diversion pleas. It was extremely rewarding to interact with and advocate for our clients, a population that is typically underserved in today's society.
I was also inspired by the examples set by the MDI attorneys. The attorneys’ dedication to their clients, as well as their mentorship, was a memorable part of my experience. Working at MDI confirmed my commitment to pursuing a career in public defense. I never would have been able to have such a rewarding summer internship without the OLSPIF stipend, and for that I am grateful.
Colleen O’Malley, 2L—Children’s Law Center of California, Los Angeles, CA
As a legal intern with the Children’s Law Center of California, I served abused and neglected youth. My internship helped me synthesize my legal knowledge from law school with practical legal skills. I put my writing skills to work, briefing legal issues ranging from paternity issues to Indian Child Welfare Act compliance. I also wrote and filed pre-trial statements outlining our arguments for trial; a judge even quoted one of them during a trial we later won.
I also worked on community education projects that furthered my knowledge of children’s legal issues. For example, I created a presentation about the intersection of immigration and child abuse in the legal system for a symposium with the Mexican Consulate.
The Children’s Law Center of California not only represents individual children, it also works on creating and supporting better policy for children and families. One aspect of this work is tracking the progress of bills through the California legislature and supporting pro-child policy. I had the opportunity to speak at the state capitol in a legislative hearing in support of one of these bills.
Working directly with children to get know them and assess their needs was the most dynamic and rewarding part of my job. Interviewing children requires a special skill set, and navigating the challenges of communicating with child-clients was always exciting. Being part of the process of helping children heal and grow from their trauma strengthened my desire to dedicate my career to serving marginalized youth.
My work with the Children’s Law Center of California was an incredibly valuable experience that will further my goal of legal public service. The OLSPIF stipend made my internship possible, and connected me with a community of lawyers and law students serving the public interest. Because of OLSPIF’s support I will carry those connections and my experience beyond my law school career to serve children in need.
Emma Pelkey, 2L- California Department of Justice, Employment and Administrative Mandate, Oakland, CA
Receiving an OLSPIF stipend enabled me to accept a position working with the Attorney General’s Office for the California Department of Justice in the Employment and Administrative Mandate section. I am truly grateful for this meaningful work experience in the public sector, an opportunity made possible by the OLSPIF stipend.
This past summer furthered my understanding of how a government agency functions in order to best serve the public. Lawyers working for the Department of Justice are dedicated to representing the people of the state, and supporting the state agencies that operate to serve the people of California. While the lawyers experience difficult challenges with limited public resources and significant volumes of legal work, they are dedicated to providing quality services for all of the agencies represented.
As a legal extern, I worked with deputy attorneys general on employment cases regarding discrimination and harassment suits. My duties consisted of conducting legal research and drafting internal memoranda and trial briefs. I also participated in pre-trial strategy sessions, attended client conferences and depositions, and accompanied lawyers to court hearings and trials. A memorable experience was attending a trial in which I observed a jury reach a verdict on an adverse employment case. Witnessing the defendant finally receive justice as a result of the lawyers’ perseverance and hard work inspired me and solidified the importance of government agency work.
The success of my summer externship is a direct result of my strong legal education. The practical skills I acquired from my Legal Research and Writing class were invaluable to my work experience, and my legal studies provided me with creative problem solving and analytical skills.
I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to work in the Employment and Administrative Mandate section of the California Department of Justice. This meaningful legal work experience would not have been possible without the OLSPIF stipend. Working for a state agency has further instilled in me the importance of using my legal skills to serve the public. As I continue my legal education, I am eager to build upon my experience in the public service sector and motivated to make a positive impact in my community.
Amanda Schuft, 2L— Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, Portland, OR
This summer, I worked at Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services. Prior to finding this position, I knew that I wanted a public interest internship that would address issues facing impoverished and immigrant families. The OLSPIF stipend allowed me to pursue this unpaid internship. I believe that every day, my work made a positive impact on someone’s life, and at the same time made a positive impact on mine.
Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services provides clients with access to a system that is extremely difficult to understand and largely inaccessible to the population the organization serves. The waitlist is long, but many clients in desperate situations can be served effectively as a result of the summer intern program. Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services also provides community education and trainings to law enforcement, and I enjoyed working at a place so connected to other social services.
My work focused on U Visa applications and Violence Against Women Act petitions. Many of the clients I worked with experienced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and were living in poverty with few options. The U Visa and VAWA are critical because they can immediately provide work authorization and lead to permanent residency for applicants.
My entire work experience was deeply meaningful to me. Throughout the summer, I learned so much about the field of law I want to pursue. Working around people who share my passion for helping others was truly inspiring. Additionally, working directly with the clients impacted me greatly and reinvigorated my commitment to make substantial changes in this world. The gratitude that was expressed to me from clients who went though horrible trauma is the fulfillment I have always desired from a career. I look forward to future work experiences that will enable me to make legal services more accessible to immigrants, and make our society more conscious of the inhumane issues plaguing our legal system.
Adam Walters, 2L— Trustees for Alaska, Anchorage, AK
With the support of an OLSPIF stipend, I interned with Trustees for Alaska. Trustees is a nonprofit, public interest environmental law firm with nearly forty years of experience advancing the interests of community, tribal and other groups in disputes over resource development, land use and pollution.
I worked extensively with my supervising attorney on a research memorandum assessing mechanisms within the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and its Alaska counterpart. The memo was an initial piece of a developing project to protect Arctic lands from coal mining. A significant part of the memo was devoted to anticipating a takings challenge, which required parallel analyses of related case law in federal and Alaskan courts. The research also demanded familiarity with aspects of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Acts.
In addition to this assignment, I received and volunteered for other projects. I wrote a memo applying Alaskan public trust case law to the Pebble Project, a controversial, internationally noted mining project. Other tasks included cite checking briefs, providing last-minute case law research, delivering court documents, discussing research with Bureau of Land Management officials, and attending weekly staff meetings to review progress and strategies.
This experience refreshed and reaffirmed the passion and interest that led me to seek a legal education. The attorneys at Trustees are excellent role models of the public interest commitment. Seeing the fulfillment obtained from good, honest work—despite limited remuneration—is important, especially in this era of unconscionably steep education costs. My experience with Trustees will help me to preserve a clarity of purpose through the next school year and beyond.
The many contacts I made this summer are a foundation for my future pursuits in Alaska, and they will continue to shape my professional and personal growth. I am grateful to the OLSPIF contributors and volunteers for supporting my summer experience. My hope is that my summer experience demonstrates the fund’s value, and encourages new and continued efforts to support it.
Shira Zucker, 2L—San Francisco Public Defender, Juvenile Unit, San Francisco, CA
"Stick to me like glue.” These were the first words my supervising attorney said to me when I met her outside the courtroom of the Youth Justice Center, which also housed the Juvenile Unit of the San Francisco Public Defenders—the organization for which I interned this summer.
I dutifully followed my supervising attorney into the courtroom where she proceeded—in succession—to argue on behalf of five minors who were accused of committing crimes. She was experienced, committed, and – despite the fact that she juggled over 50 open cases—principled and compassionate towards all of her clients.
The San Francisco Public Defenders Juvenile Unit provides not only comprehensive legal defense for minors accused of committing crimes, but also educational and community services designed to curb rates of crime and recidivism. During my internship, I developed a tremendous respect for the attorneys, investigators, case managers and paralegals who work tirelessly to achieve positive outcomes for their clients. I also developed tremendous gratitude for the support of OLSPIF, without which I could not have had this eye-opening experience.
I chose the juvenile unit because I wanted to gain courtroom familiarity and advance my legal research and writing skills while serving vulnerable youth. Despite being accused of crimes, most of my clients were disadvantaged by generations of poverty, dependency, and abuse, and many lacked even the most basic understanding with the criminal justice system.
Through the guidance and training of my supervising attorney, I honed my client interviewing skills, familiarized myself with trial strategies, and researched and formulated novel legal arguments—from the severability of victim restitution to the discoverability of psychological testing data in competency determinations. By writing numerous motions and briefs directly to the court, I was able to develop and apply the lessons of my first-year legal research and writing course to the benefit of my clients. By connecting youth with a variety of services, programs, and specialists, I helped place them on the path of toward rehabilitation and success. Thus, in addition to helping to formulate and strategize traditional legal defenses, I was often able to help convince the court to prioritize counseling and services instead of jail or incarceration. I believe these outcomes were not only beneficial to my clients, but also to neighborhoods, communities and state and municipal budgets.
Most law students and legal practitioners are keenly aware that the economic downturn has been unkind to the legal field. Law students increasingly confront jarring dissonance between their passion for public interest work and the practicalities associated with the dual threat of dwindling employment opportunities and heavy debt burdens. Were it not for an OLSPIF stipend, my own concerns for practicality may have prohibited me from gaining experience in the field I love, with a population I am passionate about – children and youth desperately in need of legal counsel.