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SKILL SHARPENER

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

their careers.

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.

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Summer Fellowship Enables Law Students to Serve Community  

Summer Fellowship and Legal Internships enables law students to Serve Community.

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