News - February 2005Fellowships launch public-service law careers
U-M grads choose advocacy over more lucrative practices
Sunday, February 20, 2005
By Anne Reuter, Ann Arbor News Staff Reporter
2005, The Ann Arbor News. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Four University of Michigan Law School graduates will start their first real jobs as attorneys this fall. But they won't be hanging their credentials in posh New York or Boston law offices and earning around $125,000, the average starting pay of a U-M law graduate. Amy Myers, Monica Saxena, Liza Zamd and Julianna Lee will begin fellowships with nonprofit advocacy organizations in Washington and Montgomery, Ala.U-M Law School team wins at national tribal moot court
The coveted fellowships are tickets to one-to-two-year jobs in the field of public-interest law, where the starting pay is around $37,000. A small but ardent set of U-M law students, about 10 percent of each class, passes up the big bucks for the chance to work at nonprofit organizations that advocate for women, immigrants and other underserved groups in society, says Mary Ann Sarosi, director of the public service office at the U-M Law School. Myers, Saxena, Zamd and Lee won their fellowships in stiff competition with law students across the country.
Myers will help women who have survived domestic violence navigate legal issues of divorce and child custody. Saxena will press cities and counties to provide language and other assistance to immigrant voters not skilled in English -- a provision of the federal Voting Rights Act that often is not enforced. Zamd will work to make women, particularly immigrants, aware of their rights against discrimination in the workplace.
The latest U-M law student to learn she has landed a prestigious fellowship is Julianna Lee, who will work at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery Ala. The center awards one fellowship a year. "It's a huge coup. It is one of the most well-respected civil rights organizations in the country" says Susan Guindi, assistant dean for career services at the law school.
Amy Myers: Helping survivors of domestic violence
Growing up in Nashville, the daughter of a teacher and a lawyer, Myers remembers early on "being identified by others as a feminist - which is not hard to do in the south."
In high school, she worked on social service projects for the homeless and for the Salvation Army. She says she already knew then she wanted to go to law school and do litigation for women's rights.
In her undergrad years at Suwanee University in Tennessee, she relished being a pioneer activist. There were still big steps to be made," she says, like starting the schools first Take Back the Night march in 2001.
She came to U-M because it offered opportunities in public-interest law and the chance to take classes from feminist legal scholar Catharine Mackinnon. Myers found working on real cases among indigent clients in the school's clinical law program "a fabulous experience." She volunteers with the school's Family Law Project and the Washtenaw County Sexual Assault Crisis Center.
By the time Myers neared graduation, she knew she wanted to do domestic violence work with low-income women of color.
Using her Skadden fellowship, Myers will do a two-year stint at the Washington-based nonprofit Women Empowered Against Violence, where she will help domestic violence survivors through a thicket of legal matters: protection orders, divorce and custody settlements. Often in these cases, divorce proceedings can be tense and protracted. Abusive partners are more likely than others to go to court to get sole custody of children, WEAVE reports.
Myers wrote her own job proposal. She plans to spend some of her time heading off the problems some women have in keeping custody of their children as they attempt to leave an abusive partner, which they often try to do repeatedly before succeeding. Children often become pawns in the process, she explains, and sometimes child welfare agencies remove them from the home. Myers wants to get case workers in domestic violence and the child welfare system together for discussions. When they work at cross purposes, they end up failing to give mothers and children the help they need, she feels.
"We need a person whose job is going to be to build these bridges," says Sarah Connell, senior staff attorney at WEAVE. "She's the one who's going to be the expert on this."
Monica Saxena: Assuring immigrants the right to vote
When Jon Greenbaum responded to a phone call from Saxena last summer, he was immediately impressed. He's director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonprofit legal service group created in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. Saxena's passion for voting rights was quickly evident. She wanted to know if she could work for his organization.
"I really appreciated her energy, the fact she had an idea of what she wants to do," he says. "For us, what she will be doing will be something new." Saxena brings with her a fellowship from Equal Justice Works, which will pay most of her salary for two years. Greenbaum and Saxena will identify 10 to 12 jurisdictions where the group will concentrate efforts to enforce existing federal laws requiring language and other voting assistance for immigrant citizens. In 1975, Congress added this provision to the 1965 Voting Rights Act in areas where 5 percent or more of eligible voters speak a minority language.
The law applies to about 400 jurisdictions nationwide, but relatively few counties and cities provide the services, which can include ballots printed in Spanish, for example or education about the voting process. Few voters entitled to the voting aids demand their rights. "If you don't speak English, how would you be informed of your rights?" Saxena says. Saxena knows how hesitant and confused an immigrant voter can feel. She translated a ballot into Hindi for her 86-year-old grandmother, who immigrated from India to live with Saxena's family and voted for the first time last fall.
Saxena, 28, grew up in Alma. Both of her parents, who emigrated from India, are doctors. From early on, she says, she wanted to "change the world 101 different ways," A class on voting rights with U-M law professor Ellen Katz galvanized her to focus on immigrant voting rights.
People dream about coming to this country, and voting is something that really marks that they've come to this world here, and they've made it," she says.
She's troubled at what she sees as rising anti-immigration sentiment in the nation. She thinks that people who question the law she will be enforcing, which is up for renewal in 2007, "don't understand how monumental the power to vote is." Her passion for the subject rises in her voice. She finds it "outrageous" when friends don't bother to vote in local elections. "It should be part of your consciousness, as much as knowing where the post office is," she says.
In her project at the Lawyers Committee, Saxena will bring cases that she hopes will pressure local governments to comply with the law. She and Greenbaum expect few will want to see the issue taken to court. She will also monitor how well the government units carry out the law's provisions.
Lisa Zamd: Empowering immigrant women at work
Zamd, who graduated from the U-M Law School in December, is convinced that women, especially immigrants, experience discrimination in the workplace and aren't aware of laws passed decades ago that protect their rights.
"Now, in general, people are a lot better at having very subversive ways of discriminating," she says. "Now they might not say, 'We're firing you because you're a woman.' It's 'We're firing you because of your family commitments, because you're spending too much time with a sick child."
Zamd wants to spend her year as a fellow at the National Partnership for Women and Families -- and her subsequent career as well -- fighting employment discrimination: "I'm very passionate about it," she says. She was elated at the chance to work for the National Partnership for Women and Families, a nonprofit advocacy organization that counts anti-pregnancy discrimination laws and the federal family leave act among its successes.
For poor and immigrant women, Zamd says, "A lot of it is just being informed of their rights, and understanding they have laws that protect them that they may not be aware of."
Zamd's parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico before she was born. Growing up in San Diego, Zamd says she saw the barriers that skin color and language skills can pose in the workplace.
Her mother, of German descent with fair skin and no pronounced accent, has been very successful in the business world. A job at an American company, which would offer good pay, has eluded Zamd's darker-skinned Cuban-born father, who speaks English with a definite accent.
Zamd, like Myers and Saxena, made volunteer public service jobs part of her life growing up. During a year off between college and law school, she worked for the New York City Red Cross, helping low income victims of house fires apply for Section 8 housing until the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks changed her duties to processing a flood of volunteer applications. She also worked for a New York nonprofit lending organization that aids women and minorities. While at U-M, Zamd took advantage of the school's clinical law program and landed summer work at the US. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
All that impressed Jocelyn Frye, director of legal and public policy at the National Partnership for Women and Families. She will work closely with Zamd on such projects as monitoring federal agencies' enforcement of workplace fairness laws. Her organization can choose among many qualified fellows each year. But not all have a key trait, she says: "Idealism that's tempered by realism"
She found that, plus another desired quality in Zamd.
"You're looking at, 'Do they have an energy and a passion to engage in an issue for the long haul?' I was struck by the sincerity and commitment Liza brought to a full range of issues that go to the heart of our mission."
Julianna Lee: Battling hate crimes
Lee will spend two years doing research for cases brought by the nation's preeminent guardian against the spread of hate crimes, the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center is well known for filing lawsuits against white supremacist groups. It also has won respect for its "Teaching Tolerance" educational materials for schools.
As one member of the Southern Poverty Law Center's small legal team of six, Lee will work on cases in several areas in which the center is active: hate groups, children's educational rights and the rights of institutionalized people in the mental health and justice systems.
Fellows often help present cases in court as well, says staff attorney Danielle Lipow. "We expect our law fellows to be junior lawyers."
Lee is strongly indignant about acts of intimidation and the harm done to members of Asian and other ethnic groups.
"It's something that really pulls at your heartstrings. It's something that's really blatant," she says.
"Many people think racism is no longer overt. Nothing could be farther from the truth."
At Catholic school in Boca Raton, Fla., Lee didn't grow up with a strong sense of her Asian-American identity. She gained that later at Wellesley College, where as a freshman, she felt shocked, saddened and stirred to activism after watching a documentary about the brutal 1982 beating death of Vincent Chin in Detroit. She also took an eye-opening class on the Asian-American experience.
"It awakened this strong awareness of who I was," she says. Born in South Korea, Lee and her parents immigrated to the United States when she was 5.
While in college, when Lee worked with Asian immigrants on language skills in the Boston area, she worked to see that the kids had a sense of pride in their Asian identity.
At U-M, hate crimes and immigrant rights became her chief interests. Last summer she worked for the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, which puts out an annual hate crimes report for the Asian communitv nationwide.
Although the U-M Law School offers support and opportunities for students who want careers in government and advocacy, Zamd wishes more students would choose a public service path. Many head for a private firm in part to pay off the $150,000 spent on their law school education and living expenses, she says. But they should think again, given the U-M Law School's generous loan forgiveness program for those who go into public service work. "It is doable," she says.
Reporter Anne Rueter can be reached at 734.994.6759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos of Julianna Lee, Amy Myers, and Monica Saxena were taken by Lon Horwedel, The Ann Arbor News. Lisa Zamd provide her own photo.
February 18, 2005
|The University of Michigan Law School team of Brian P. McClatchey and Paul C. Porter won the Best Brief award at the 13th annual National Native American Law Students Association’s Moot Court Competition. Held on the campus of the University of California Los Angeles School of Law over the February 11-12 weekend, the Law School’s team competed against some 32 teams from 17 other institutions that included the University of Arizona, Columbia University, and Yale University. The winning brief will be published in the American Indian Law Review, a publication of the University of Oklahoma School of Law.
McClatchey, a 3L who will graduate in May, and Porter, a 1L, said that they wrote about Tribal Sovereign Immunity, Federal Preemption, and Equal Protection as it applies to Indian tribes. They each worked full time on the brief during the break between fall and winter semester, and since they were in different locationsMcClatchey was in Washington State and Porter in Texas--they took responsibility for different sections and used e-mail and instant messages to compensate for the separation. In addition to doing his own sections of the brief, Porter put the various pieces together and made sure all of the citations were done according to the rules before submitting the final document.
"Moot courts in general are a fantastic learning experiencein doing the research, the writing, and preparing for the oral presentations," McClatchey says. "These competitions give us the chance to develop skills that we’ll need when we graduate, and I’m glad I got this chance to participate," he says.
After learning about their award, Porter contacted two of his professors to let them know how their teaching had helped him. "In Constitutional Law Professor Halberstam’s favorite case is City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, which is like a roadmap for the different levels of scrutiny the Supreme Court applies in equal protection cases," Porter says. "I drew heavily on what I learned in his course to develop the brief. In addition, Professor Connor’s Legal Practice class gave me the research and writing skills I needed and taught me how to do the citations properly."
McClatchey recalls that the Law School has sent two teams to the competition each year for the last three years. Two years ago the Law School team of Matthew Baumgartner and Elizabeth Kronk won both Best Brief and Best Overall when the competition was held at Columbia Law School. In addition, the Law School’s Native American Law Students Association Chapter was named NNALSA Chapter of the Year for 2002-2003.
Art at the Law Quad
February 17, 2005
Beauty, color, the drama of black and white, texture, and form: The University of Michigan Law School is hosting the first "Term of Art" show -- 55 works that include paintings, photographs, drypoint, ceramic, etching, collage, lithograph, silkscreen, and installation art, all created by U-M Law students. The exhibition runs from February 19 to March 17 in the Hutchins Hall Basement Gallery with the opening on February 19 at 8 p.m. The public may visit the exhibit on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Among the pieces on view will be "Nai Nai" a photograph of third-year student Liz Wei's paternal grandmother. Since Nai Nai passed away earlier this year, Wei likes to imagine seeing her throw her head back in laughter. At the same time, she also recognizes that her grandmother had a difficult life and she believes that complexity comes through in the photograph. Robbin Pott Gonzalez' ceramic pitcher is the result of admiring another ceramic pitcher at a professor's home. She had "purchased the right to dinner" with University of Michigan Law Professor Christina Whitman and Law Library Director Margaret Leary at the 2003 Student Funded Fellowships (SFF) Auction. Faculty frequently donate interesting socializing opportunities that go to the highest bidder of this yearly event. Gonzalez "thought Whitman's pitcher was lovely and decided to try her hand" at making one of her own. The result is on display.
Some of the pieces will be available for sale by the artists, and others will be included in the Law School's Student Funded Fellowships Auction on March 17. The auction, which is an entirely student-run activity, supports fellowships provided to U-M Law students on a competitive basis so that they can pursue public interest work during the summer.
No tickets are required. This art show is a collaboration between the Law School Student Senate, Student Funded Fellowships, the Entertainment and Media Art Law Student Association, and has the support of the Senate and Dean Charlotte H. Johnson. For more information, contact Jay Surdukowski, email@example.com or check out the Term of Arts Catalog [2MB PDF].
Dino Kritsiotis appointed to a named visiting professorship
February 11, 2005
Dino Kritsiotis, who is a Reader in Public International Law at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, has been appointed the L. Bates Lea Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. Professor Kritsiotis is a distinguished scholar of international law with a specialty in the laws governing the use of force and armed conflict, democracy, the United Nations, and the history and theory of international law. He is teaching a course on International Humanitarian Law and a seminar on International Law and Use of Force. The term of the professorship ends on April 30, 2005.
The L. Bates Lea Professorship in Law was established in 1993 in recognition of the growing interdependence of the United States and the rest of the world, and to promote long-term relationships between the Law School and foreign institutions.
Friday flicks at Hutchins Hall
February 1, 2005
What do Inherit the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Civil Action have in common? They are all movies that have shaped the perception of the American lawyer over the 20th century. Organized by Professor Orit Kamir for her class on law and film, there are two showings each Friday. Advance registration is not required and you do not need to be a part of the class to attending the movies. [ PDF Schedule ]