A baker’s dozen of West Virginia University law students will be heading out this summer to public interest groups around the state as part of the College of Law’s nationally ranked service to the state.
“Our students serve all over West Virginia each summer,” says Megan Annitto, director of the College’s Center for Law and Public Service. “They play key roles in assisting lawyers in legal aid and public defender offices from Martinsburg to Huntington. In some instances they are even permitted to try cases under supervision.”
It is this unique opportunity to engage in public service while augmenting a legal education in a “real world” setting that makes these fellowships a key component of a highly regarded and comprehensive public interest program at the College of Law.
National Jurist Publications recently ranked the WVU College of Law as one of the top schools in the nation for public interest law in PreLaw Magazine, targeted to prospective students seeking a legal education. PreLaw gave the College an “A” rating and a rank of 15th-best in the country in Public Interest Law along with law schools such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard and The Ohio State University.
“We take our responsibility to train students in public service seriously,” says Dean Joyce McConnell. “When they graduate, our students know they have an obligation to serve their communities – and they are equipped to do that.”
One factor in the magazine rating the WVU College of Law so favorably is the number of clinical opportunities afforded students.
The College’s clinical programs provide more than 40,000 hours in legal services per year to those who could not otherwise afford them by students engaged in work in a civil clinic for the poor, a child and family clinic that works in partnership with WVU Children’s Hospital, a human rights and immigration clinic and an entrepreneurship clinic that helps small businesses and non-profits get off the ground.
“Our students represent clients in these clinics and by doing so not only help people in need, but gain valuable practice skills,” shares Professor Marjorie McDiarmid, director of the civil clinic. “There’s no substitute for the experience students receive in our clinics. It’s a setting in which our students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real cases.”
Other opportunities are provided through the College of Law’s Center for Law and Public Service Externship program where students earn credits working in non-profit and government agencies from state trial courts to the West Virginia Supreme Court to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Students serve in state and federal public defender offices, Legal Aid, prosecutor offices, and in advocacy for seniors. These rich opportunities enable the development of professional skills and an understanding of work in public interest law while serving the community.
The 2012 Summer Public Interest Advocate Fellowship assignments:
- Legal Aid of West Virginia, Morgantown, W.Va., Dallas Kratzer
- Legal Aid of West Virginia, Clarksburg, W.Va., Katie Niland
- Legal Aid of West Virginia, Wheeling, W.Va., Katherine Deane
- Legal Aid of West Virginia, Elkins, W.Va., Lorrena Waddell
- Legal Aid of West Virginia Beckley, W.Va., Ashley Joseph
- Legal Aid of West Virginia, Parkersburg, W.Va., Alicia Lauderman
- Legal Aid of West Virginia, Martinsburg, W.Va., Dominique Razzook
- Legal Aid of West Virginia Charleston, W.Va., John McCartney
- Senior Legal Aid, Morgantown, W.Va., Rachel Livingood
- Child Law Services, Princeton, W.Va., Emily White
- West Virginia Advocates, Charleston, W.Va., Ryan Hupp
- Mountain State Justice, Charleston, W.Va., David Estep
- Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, Lewisburg, W.Va., Matthew Chase
These summer fellowships – as well as a post-graduate fellowships – are funded by the College’s vibrant student group, the Public Interest Advocates.
“We’re one of the biggest and most active organizations on the College of Law campus”, says Adam Taylor, a third-year student who heads up the PIA. “Our annual spring auction is the event of the year. We raise a ton of money—and have fun doing it.”
Additional support also provides for a full time post-graduate Public Interest Fellowship awarded to a graduating student that covers the entire first year salary plus loan repayment assistance. The College of Law also helps with scholarships to support students who will work in public interest beyond graduation, including a State Bar scholarship with full tuition for two years and the Waldo Craig Endowment scholarships awarded to students interested in public service. This assistance helps make it possible for students to become future leaders achieving access to justice for society in West Virginia and beyond.
CONTACT: Brian Caudill, College of Law
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