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A Commitment to Public Advocacy



“Social justice is the heart of law. The George Barrett Social Justice Program keeps it at the heart of Vanderbilt Law School.”

TERRY MARONEY | Professor of Law, Professor of Medicine, Health, and Society

Law school is where each attorney’s unique path to building a better world through law first takes shape. Vanderbilt’s Social Justice Program promotes a dynamic atmosphere in which students and faculty focus on issues of equality, access and service — both inside and outside the classroom. The George Barrett Social Justice Program, recently endowed by Darren Robbins ’93 in honor of civil rights attorney George Barrett ’57, is just one element of Vanderbilt’s institutional commitment to lawyering in the public interest. Here, students can gain invaluable hands-on experience in our clinical courses, pursue volunteer opportunities through student organizations such as the Legal Aid Society and Law Students for Social Justice, take the Pro Bono Pledge

to devote time each year to public service, and spend a summer or semester interning at a public interest organization or government agency. An Array of Elective Courses & Clinics Students may choose from a variety of courses and clinics addressing a diversity of topics, including prisoners’ rights, non-litigation strategies for social change, race and the law, drug law and policy, juvenile justice, domestic violence, labor and employment, poverty law, mental health law, bioethics, human trafficking and wrongful conviction. The Social Justice Program also enriches the curriculum each year by bringing in top public interest lawyers to deliver talks and teach in their areas of expertise.

Adults and kids with disabilities need an attorney to help them navigate the educational system and the employment process and to make sure that their voices are clearly heard and represented. I want to be that attorney. The George Barrett Fellowship has made that possible. NATHAN WALSH ’16

2016–17 George Barrett Social Justice Fellow

Nathan is the first recipient of Vanderbilt Law’s George Barrett Social Justice Fellowship, which provides salary and benefits for a VLS graduate to carry out a one-year public interest project with a host organization. Working with Disability Rights Tennessee, Nathan is advocating for homeless children and teens and developing a training program for school officials. Up to two Barrett Fellows are selected each year from among third-year students who apply for this post-graduation fellowship.

Social Justice Reading Group This innovative, seminar-style reading group meets every other week to discuss curated readings addressing the substantive issues with which public interest lawyers work, as well as the challenges and rewards of representing marginalized clients and communities. Events, Activities & Opportunities Each year, the Social Justice Program sponsors speakers, conferences and workshops for both students and faculty on issues ranging from wrongful conviction to education reform to religious exemptions from civil rights laws. To deepen students’ understanding of social issues and help them build public interest connections, the program also enables students to attend conferences and training sessions such as the Rebellious Lawyering gathering at Yale. Social Justice Fellow The Social Justice Program honors a distinguished public interest attorney each year as Vanderbilt’s Social Justice Fellow. While on campus, the Fellow gives a public lecture and offers student mentoring sessions. Past Fellows include LGBT rights litigator James Esseks, whose victories include Obergefell v. Hodges, securing the constitutional right to same-sex marriage; community organizer Oona Chatterjee, co-founder of Make the Road New York; Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Stephen Bright, president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights; Steve Sanders ’78 of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, and New Orleans Chief District Defender Derwyn Bunton. For more information, see our Public Interest Law at Vanderbilt brochure. Vanderbilt also offers students seeking public interest careers expert placement support, and graduates can receive financial support through the Loan Repayment Assistance Program and the Public Service Initiative.

George Barrett Social Justice Summer Stipends Five VLS students, including Darrius Woods ’17 and Carly Myers ’17, received stipends from the Social Justice Program to work pro bono for public interest organizations in summer 2016. Woods worked at the Advancement Project, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights advocacy organization. Myers worked for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, California. As an intern with the Tennessee Justice Center, Myers had a “lifechanging experience” representing a girl who needed learning-disorder and mental-healthdisorder testing, which Tennessee’s Medicaid program had denied. “Our appeal was successful, and she got the services she needed,” she said. “That reaffirmed my commitment to public interest work—I want to help individuals like this child.” Garrison Social Justice Scholars Abby Moskowitz ’17, pictured here, and Alana Seixas ’18 are the first two Garrison Social Justice Scholars, recipients of a scholarship for second- and third-year students who plan to pursue careers in the public interest. In addition to tuition assistance, the scholarship provides a stipend to support summer pro bono work after the first and second years of law school. Abby worked at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., in summer 2016 and plans to clerk for Judge James Dennis of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017-18.

“ I want to make a little trouble where it’s needed.”

Abby Moskowitz, Class of 2017

Program co-director Dan Sharfstein has won numerous accolades, including the 2012 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for excellence in non-fiction, for his work on the legal history of race. His awardwinning book, The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White, has been universally hailed as transforming concepts of racial boundaries, both legal and cultural. A former journalist and civil rights litigator, Professor Sharfstein holds the Tarkington Chair of Teaching Excellence. Program co-director Terry Maroney, a recipient of the Hall-Hartman Outstanding Professor Award and a former Skadden Fellow, calls on her practice experience in classes such as Juvenile Justice and Actual Innocence. Her groundbreaking work on the role of emotion in judging has received both academic praise and national press; she frequently lectures on that issue to judges at the state, federal and international level.

Learn more about Vanderbilt Law School’s Social Justice Program.

Program co-director Terry Maroney worked with the Federal Judicial Center to develop a new training program for mid-career federal judges now offered annually at Vanderbilt Law School.

As Vanderbilt’s Assistant Dean for Public Interest, Spring Miller creates pro bono law opportunities for Vanderbilt Law students and facilitates entry into public interest law careers for students and recent graduates.

Daniel J. Sharfstein’s scholarship focuses on the legal history of race in the United States. He received a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship to support his work on a book-length exploration of post-Reconstruction America, Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard and the Nez Perce War, to be released in 2017.

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Š 2016 Vanderbilt University Law School

Vanderbilt Law School 2016 Social Justice