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Summer Fellowship Enables Law Students to Serve Community [by Erica Winter] Most public interest summer legal internships pay nothing. Law students who are dedicated to careers in public interest work—or who want to explore this option and give back to their communities for a summer—are sometimes hard-pressed to come up with the money to do so. Many just take out more loans and go deeper into debt.
A few law ﬁrms around the country are mak-
Law in Pittsburgh, and she will start working
Weiss, a 2004 grad of Harvard Law, has
ing it easier to do summer public interest
at KidsVoice later this summer. Fritz sees the
explored a wide variety of career possibilities.
work through a variety of programs that pay
fellowship as “a fantastic opportunity to be
His clerkship ends later this summer, and he
law students out of the ﬁrms’ pockets to work
able to do public interest work.”
is in the process of examining his options for work after that. While he loves clerking—”It’s
at nonproﬁt organizations. Jonathan Weiss, currently clerking for Judge
an incredible experience; unfortunately, I
One such program can be found in Pitts-
Dorothy W. Nelson, a federal appeals court
can’t do it forever.”—Weiss also took a lot
burgh in Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson
judge on the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena, CA,
away with him after working at KidsVoice.
Graham’s U.S. K&LNG Public Interest Fel-
won the K&LNG fellowship after his ﬁrst
lowship, which pays up to three law students
year at Harvard Law. Weiss left a graduate
Although he did not represent kids after just
every summer $1,000 per week to work at
program in philosophy to go to law school,
one year of law school, Weiss was assigned
one of four Pittsburgh area nonproﬁts for up
looking for work with a greater practical im-
to a team and went to several hearings and
to four weeks. The fellowships can be com-
pact. He found it at KidsVoice, which is “really
court appearances with KidsVoice staff.
bined with a summer-associate position at
a wonderful organization,” he says.
Through a potentially extensive series of dependency hearings, and even termination
K&LNG (the applications are separate), work at another ﬁrm, or stretched to cover a whole
KidsVoice serves abused and neglected kids
of parental rights hearings, “the child needs
summer of pro bono work.
in Allegheny County by providing them with
to be represented every step of the way,” says
representation. It uses an interdisciplinary
Weiss. He learned a great deal watching the
The K&LNG fellowship, in short, expands the
approach that teams lawyers with Child Ad-
KidsVoice staff work with kids. “You absorb a
possibilities for a few law students and what
vocacy Specialists—typically social workers
lot,” he says.
they do for their summers, and possibly for
or other professionals with backgrounds in
mental health, child development, and special
And some of what he saw was not easy to wit-
education. The teams are assigned to work in
ness—such as hearings to terminate parental
The four designated organizations for the
different regions of the county. Legal interns
rights, kids who want to go back to their
fellowship are KidsVoice, Neighborhood Legal
at KidsVoice, including the K&LNG fellow, are
parents no matter what’s been done to them,
Services Association, the Allegheny Confer-
put on a team for the summer.
or in some instances, a life-impacting court
ence on Community Development, and the
decision resting on one person’s testimony.
Education Law Center. These Pittsburg-area
This approach allows the group to “bring
groups offer legal services to low-income
more to the table for less money,” says
Still, it was work that Weiss very much
people and abused children while also
Executive Director Scott Hollander, because
wanted to do. “Public interest law allows you
providing information and policy advocacy for
it is less expensive to hire Child Advocacy
to have a practical impact,” he says. This
community development and public educa-
Specialists than lawyers.
work “makes a tremendous difference—it can make all the difference,” to the kids being
tion. Once accepted as fellows, law students can choose which group they would like to
Fritz worked with at-risk youth at a camp
work with for the summer.
throughout her undergraduate years, so
helped, says Weiss.
KidsVoice was a natural choice for her. She is
It was “humbling,” says Weiss, to see how
We were able to talk with both a former and
looking forward to serving kids this summer,
tough it was for professionals who help these
a current K&LNG fellow, each of whom chose
as well as getting law ﬁrm experience as a
kids on a daily basis. It is very difﬁcult work to
KidsVoice as his/her organization. A current
K&LNG summer associate. Fritz will explore
do day in and day out, says Weiss, but “it can
K&LNG fellow as well as a summer associ-
litigation at the ﬁrm and will also get the
also be tremendously rewarding.”
ate with the ﬁrm, Kristine Fritz is a rising
chance to see if practicing public interest law
third-year at Duquesne University School of
will be a good ﬁt for her in the future.
Summer Fellowship and Legal Internships enables law students to Serve Community.