June 29, 2016

A Springboard to Opportunity

Auction raises funds for public interest stipends which can lead to long-term career prospects

When Maura Fahey ’13 was a law student at Lewis & Clark, she argued a case before the Oregon Land Use Board of appeals as a student intern for Crag Law Center. In the summer after her first year of law school, Kathryn McNeill ’14 helped clients at Legal Aid Services of Oregon maintain their Section 8 housing. Kasia Rutledge ’07 assisted in class action and eviction trials while working during her 1L summer at the Oregon Law Center.

Fahey, McNeill, and Rutledge, are just three of nearly 170 alumni who, in the past dozen years, received financial support from the Public Interest Law Project (PILP) while students at Lewis & Clark Law School. One of the most active student organizations on campus, PILP’s objectives are to educate students about opportunities in public interest law and to reinforce their commitment to this field. PILP also provides financial support to students and attorneys in public interest work through its Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) and its Summer Stipend Program.

Since 1990, PILP has enabled Lewis & Clark Law School students to take summer positions at nonprofits and government agencies around the world. Each year, PILP awards 10 to 19 stipends, which can be applied toward housing and living costs.

“I likely would not have been able to take the position at Crag without the assistance of a PILP stipend,” says Fahey. “As a nonprofit law firm, Crag is not in a position to pay its summer interns.” McNeill agrees that the stipend was critical. “Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO) would not have been able to pay me to work there as a summer clerk, and I could not have afforded to work without any compensation that summer.”

Read how past stipend recipients spent their summers.

In addition to the stipends, PILP raises funds for its Loan Repayment Assistance Program. LRAP helps low-income public interest lawyers pay their student loans after graduation.

McNeill chose Lewis & Clark Law School because of its reputation and offerings in public interest law, and she attributes her summer job with leading to a career in the public interest sector. “My experience at LASO helped me find a subsequent law clerk position at Portland State University’s Student Legal Services, and both of these contributed to my resume and my ability to acquire a position in the public interest directly out of law school.” McNeill has worked as a staff attorney for TeamChild since graduating.

Rutledge also credits her stipend for getting her career started. “Receiving the PILP stipend and working for the Oregon Law Center put me on the path towards a career in public interest work. It made it real for me that someone could pursue a career in public interest and not starve. It gave me connections with attorneys who I still am in contact with and who mentor me,” says Rutledge, who now works for Metropolitan Public Defenders where she clerked during her last summer in law school. “PILP is one very important piece towards making it possible for students to enter and remain in public service,” she adds.

All three alumni were very active as leaders of PILP while law students, putting significant time into planning events to raise money for stipends and LRAP, the most prominent event being the PILP Auction. Next year’s auction will take place on February 11, 2017, at the law school and will feature a live and silent auction. The theme is “Vintage Vegas.”

PILP’s auction has been a staple at Lewis & Clark Law School for more than 25 years. Its success can be largely attributed to unwavering support from the bar, bench, law school, and community. Tickets will be available on the PILP website this fall.

Many alumni remain active in PILP long after graduation. For example, Fahey helps mentor and train PILP recipients, and Crag Law Center frequently hosts PILP recipients as part of a summer associate class. Rutledge has served on the PILP Advisory Board for many years, was a member of the LRAP selection committee, speaks on panels about public interest law, and of course, attends the annual auction. McNeill says that the stipend was part of what inspired her to get involved and give back to the public interest legal community.

“My hope is that Lewis & Clark can re-invigorate and support the amazing work that generations of graduates and its current students are doing towards making the world a better place,” comments Rutledge. “PILP is one very important piece towards making it possible for students to enter and remain in public service.”

Learn more about PILP, donate, or support the auction.