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SKILL SHARPENER

Summer Grants Allow Pepperdine Law Students to Do Local Public Interest Work [by Erica Winter] Virginia Monken was one of the first recipients last year of a law school monetary award allowing her to do unpaid public interest work during the summer after her first year at Pepperdine University School of Law. Monken also received a law student organization fellowship last summer, which meant she did not have to take another job to make ends meet.

The combined grant money “completely made

that works on a myriad of issues, including

helped one of the clients who is from a part of

it possible” to do public interest immigra-

employment rights, housing issues, eldercare

India where there is a great deal of violence

tion work over the summer with the group El

issues, and Holocaust reparations. Azod will

between Muslims and Hindus apply for asy-

Rescate in Los Angeles, says Monken.

rotate through every department, he says. He

lum on religious grounds.

will do client intake interviews and then most Recent years have seen increased attention

likely work on housing issues.

to aiding students at Pepperdine Law inter-

Monken also helped with immigration cases of women being abused by their husbands,

ested in public interest legal work. “Over the

Before going to law school, Azod volun-

who are citizens. Since immigration appli-

last two years, there has been a big improve-

teered with Bet Tzedek, doing translation

cations for family members usually need a

ment” in public interest funding at Pepper-

of documents in German for the Holocaust

family sponsor, abused women are some-

dine, says Monken. The law school’s new

reparations project. Azod, waiting for his U.S.

times denied citizenship applications by their

Dean, Kenneth Starr, “has been really helpful

citizenship to come through before apply-

spouses. If the women and their advocates

in making sure more money is being allotted

ing to law school (he is originally from Iran),

can prove the abuse, then the women can

to this,” she adds.

worked as a stockbroker for Morgan Stanley

“self-petition” for citizenship, without their

and then was an accountant.

husbands’ aid.

Pepperdine Law to help repay loans of gradu-

After graduation, Azod would like to do public

Monken speaks Spanish, as do the majority

ates who go into low-paying public interest

interest litigation. “That’s the reason I came

of El Rescate clients she saw. The clients ap-

positions. Also, the student organization Ad-

to law school,” he says. While at Bet Tzedek

plying for asylum, however, were from India,

vocates for Public Interest Law (APIL) funds

this summer, “I’ll help out as much as I can,”

Kenya, and Cameroon. She is not sure how

a few students every summer who commit to

says Azod.

the cases turned out, although she continued

Currently, there is a growing endowment at

to volunteer with El Rescate through this

unpaid public interest positions. As for Monken, last summer, she worked for

past January. “I really enjoyed it,” she says.

Another addition to this funding trend is the

the immigration arm of El Rescate, which

Monken would like to do some sort of public

law school’s own stipend for public interest

mainly handles asylum cases. She wrote trial

interest work after graduation, especially in

summer work—this year, a total of $40,000,

briefs and prepared cases for low-income

the immigrant community, in which many

divided between 23 students. Last year, fewer

people seeking asylum and also helped apply

legal issues seen by low-income people are

students received funding from a $25,000

for citizenship for abused women and did

compounded by language differences, she

pool. Prior to that, for two years, there was

regular pro bono immigration work.

says.

student’s academic credit hours, but not

El Rescate was founded more than 20 years

Public interest law was, Monken says,

given to the student directly.

ago to aid refugees who fled to the United

“the driving force behind my coming to law

States from the war in El Salvador. Continu-

school.” Before coming to Pepperdine Law,

This year, the APIL awards totaling $27,000

ing its work of providing social and legal

Monken was a policy analyst for a defense

went to eight students. Armin Azod, now

services to immigrants, El Rescate’s services

think tank in Washington, DC. While there,

wrapping up his first year at Pepperdine Law,

now include immigration and asylum legal

she realized that she wanted to go to law

received one of the full grants to work at the

assistance, working on discrimination cases,

school “to be equipped to affect problems”

Los Angeles-based organization Bet Tzedek,

facilitating legal training, and providing policy

that she saw. This summer, Monken will work

which in Hebrew means “House of Justice.”

analysis.

at a law firm and do pro bono work on adop-

Bet Tzedek is a large service organization

In her asylum work at El Rescate, Monken

a law school grant that was put towards a

tion cases.

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Summer Grants Allow Pepperdine Law Students to Do Local Public Interest Work