PUBLISHED:December 06, 2013

Mansfield fellowships support students’ public interest work

Mansfield Fellows, 2013 Stephen Wagner ’14 and Linda Atiase '14 received support for 2L summer service work from Alan '78 and Susan '77 Mansfield.

During her 2L summer, Linda Atiase ’14 interned in Charlotte, N.C., with both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Council for Children’s Rights, gaining solid legal skills while learning about the specific areas of employment discrimination and child advocacy. Her work was supported, in large part, by a summer service grant funded by Alan ’78 and Susan ’77 Mansfield.

In 2013, five Duke Law students received support from the Mansfields for their summer work in public interest law, thanks to the couple’s annual donations for that purpose. Through a new endowed summer fellowship fund, the Mansfields have guaranteed similar support to many more Duke Law students.

“Without the generous support of donors like Mr. and Mrs. Mansfield, Duke Law students might not be able to take advantage of invaluable summer opportunities to engage in public service and public interest law practice,” said Kim Bart ’02, Duke Law’s assistant dean for public interest and pro bono. “Government and public interest organizations lack the resources to pay students for summer work, but provide exceptional opportunities for students to work with clients, engage in advocacy or litigation, and put classroom knowledge to use in a real-world setting.”

Working in both the litigation and enforcement units of the EEOC, Atiase assisted federal investigators in interviewing complainants and assessing their charges of discrimination; drafting requests for  information, discovery, and subpoenas; researching and drafting memoranda on civil rights cases and appeals for use by senior lawyers; and analyzing possible systemic discrimination cases involving employment practices and policies. At the Council for Children’s Rights, the biggest legal advocacy program for children in the Southeast, she focused on education law, often drafting memoranda and court documents relating to children’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and working with clients — families and children with disabilities.

“I have always been interested in civil rights and liberties,” said Atiase, who enjoyed interacting directly with clients during both internships. “To educate people about their employee rights and to be able to advocate on the part of children who are often disadvantaged gave me great satisfaction.”

A Mansfield Summer Service Grant allowed Stephen Wagner ’14 to spend his 2L summer in the Claims Bureau of the Office of the New York State Attorney General, in Manhattan. Planning a career in litigation, Wagner prepared memos and motions for trial lawyers representing the state in the New York Court of Claims, among other courts.

“I got a lot of substantive experience drafting memos, and got to observe the different strategies and tactics lawyers used during trials and depositions. It was great,” he said. “This summer really got me excited about being a lawyer. It’s exciting to talk to a senior attorney who is asking you questions and actively listening about what your input is on a case. You have a real sense of professional accomplishment. It also reinforced my appreciation of a good mentor, and I had a lot of great mentors in the Attorney General’s Office.

“If I didn’t have the scholarship I probably would have had to take out additional loans, which would have been quite onerous,” Wagner said.

“Susan and I agree on the importance of funding public interest work,” said Alan Mansfield, a partner at Greenberg Traurig in New York, where he co-chairs the global litigation practice, and a member of the Duke Law Board of Visitors. “We are gratified that the students we have funded over the past several years have had rewarding experiences like these.”