PUBLISHED:September 09, 2011

Fellowships help students gain experience while serving others

Speaking with survivors of a brutal Cambodian communist regime about the atrocities they had experienced, Tatiana Sainati ’13 knew her work was making a difference.

Sainati completed an internship this summer as a legal associate with the Documentation Center of Cambodia sponsored by the Law School’s Carroll-Simon endowment, the Dean’s Summer Service Grants and the Public Interest Law Foundation.

“I spoke with them about the meaning of justice and what they hoped to see happen at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in order to feel that justice had been meted out to those responsible for the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities,” Sainati said.” What was striking to me was the faith that both had in the work of the court – their belief that the legal system, which had been totally shattered and was still being rebuilt, with strong support from the international community and the UN, could deliver justice.”

Sainati’s experience is just one of dozens of Duke Law students who traveled the globe this summer working with a wide array organizations, from government agencies to a group that provides pro-bono legal aid to artists. Many of these students were able to do so thanks to the generous support of Duke Law donors.

“Many summer internship opportunities in public interest law are low-paid or unpaid, and so students rely on the support of PILF, the Duke Law Endowed Fellowships, and Dean’s Summer Service Grants in order to take advantage of the significant opportunities afforded by public interest law summer internships,” said Kim Bart, Assistant Dean of Public Interest and Pro Bono at Duke Law. “The Duke Law School summer funding programs provide a means for Duke Law students to engage in meaningful public interest law work, to expand their skills and gain invaluable law practice experience, while also serving their communities through public service.”

Marianna Faircloth ’13 said one of the best parts of her experience at Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals in the Arts in Nashville was the variety of work.

“I expected lots of songwriters and copyright issues, but we also got to handle cases in everything from trademark registration to payment disputes, as well as helping non-profits incorporate and apply for tax-exempt status,” said Faircloth, whose internship was sponsored by the Public Interest Law Foundation. “I think the most fulfilling thing about the work was the daily interaction with clients. I got to field their first calls and research their cases, and sometimes was the first person who had listened to them and taken them seriously.”

The work that Haley Warden ’13 did as an intern with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in Washington, D.C., hit particularly close to home. Her partner is a United States Air Force veteran who was affected by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Issues of equality in the military were something I was just very aware of on a personal level,” said Warden, who was honored as a “Summer Stand-out” in Equal Justice Works’ Summer Corps program.

Warden spent much of her summer researching the benefits available to families of gay and lesbian service members and compiling a summary of benefits and how they can be accessed, as well as working with clients who has been discharged from the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

“It was really fulfilling and a fantastic opportunity,” said Warden, whose internship was sponsored by the Burdman endowment and the Public Interest Law Foundation. “I’m hoping I can work at a nonprofit or at a firm with strong emphasis in pro-bono work and use my experience as training ground.”

Halfway across the globe in Cape Town, South Africa, Chris Jones ’13 worked with the Parliamentary Monitoring Group to advance its mission of increasing transparency and accountability in government. As an intern with the PMG supported by the Carroll-Simon endowment, the Dean’s Summer Service Grants and the Public Interest Law Foundation, Jones attended committee meetings and wrote reports on their activity, which was accessed by other government ministries and others in business in academia.

“It’s a lot of analysis and research and legal issues, so all of that is very relevant to my education. But more than that, I was exposed to a new legal system and new governmental system,” Jones said. “I learned so much about South African history and politics, and that, not only in my career but in my life, is going to enrich me forever.”