PUBLISHED:February 07, 2012

Students, alumna land prestigious fellowships

Caitlin Swain ’12, Joanna Darcus ’12, and Lauren Fine ’11 each has a passion for public interest work that predates her time at Duke Law. They share the goal of making it the focus of their legal careers. And all three have received prestigious post-graduate fellowships to get them started.

Swain has received a Skadden Fellowship to provide legal support to grassroots orga­nizations in North Carolina that work with at-risk youth to enforce their constitutional right to a quality education. The two-year fellowship will support her work for the Advancement Project, a Washington, D.C.-based policy, communications, and legal action organization that facilitates commu­nity-based racial justice initiatives. In North Carolina she will partner with Advocates for Children’s Services, a statewide project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, and the NAACP to target the systemic under-edu­cation of poor students of color, which sus­tains the “school-to-prison” pipeline.

Darcus has been awarded a one-year fellowship from the Independence Foundation to work with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia to combat abusive debt collection practices on multiple fronts: through the direct representation of low-income Philadelphians who are facing abu­sive debt collection practices; by enhancing the capacity of the private bar to provide legal services to these individuals; and through policy reform initiatives with local and national partners.

Fine, who currently clerks for Magistrate Judge David Strawbridge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, has been awarded Juvenile Law Center’s Zubrow Fellowship in Children’s Law, which will provide her an opportunity to work on behalf of children in the delinquency and dependency systems. The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center is the oldest nonprofit public interest law firm for children in the United States. The two-year fellowship will allow Fine to work on litigation, policy and legislative efforts, training, and direct representation on issues ranging from the rights of dependent youth aging out of the foster care system to the needs of juveniles reentering the community from delinquent placements.

All three women will be returning as fellows to work with organizations they first served as summer interns, assisted by Duke Law summer service grants and fel­lowships, among others. In addition to pur­suing summer public interest work, each has taken advantage of Duke’s clinical and skills-based classes to deepen professional skill-sets in their areas of interest and forged a long legacy of extracurricular pub­lic service at the Law School through such organizations as the Innocence Project, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and Street Law.

“Caitlin, Joanna, and Lauren all have demonstrated a commitment to building careers in social justice from their earli­est days in the Law School,” said Assistant Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono Kim Bart ’02. “They are effective and energetic leaders who have worked to develop strong sets of skills and experiences that will serve them well in their careers. I have no doubt that all will go on to do big things in their careers, bringing about important and good changes to law and policy that will improve the lives of their clients, as well as the communities in which they live.”

Starting out with long public interest legacies:

Caitlin Swain ’12 Caitlin Swain ’12

Before law school, Swain worked at the NAACP in North Carolina and the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.

Some of Swain’s Duke Law activities:

  • Innocence Project: 1Linvestigator and outreach coordinator; 2Ltrain­ing director; 3Lstudent director
  • Human Rights Society co-chair
  • Wrongful Convictions Clinic
  • Ad hoc seminar (helped develop statutory provisions to reform Haitian laws pertaining to domestic violence and violence against women)
  • Human Rights Advocacy (helped draft bylaws for a human rights commission for Iraq)
  • Education Law
  • AIDSLaw
  • Summer service: 1LCenter for Constitutional Rights; 2LAdvancement Project

Joanna Darcus ’12Joanna Darcus ’12

Before law school, Darcus worked at Juvenile Law Center and volunteered through the IRSVolunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

Some of Darcus’s Duke Law activities:

  • Innocence Project: 1Linvestigator and outreach coordinator; 2Lcase manager; 3Lmanaging director
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
  • Children’s Law Clinic
  • Community Enterprise Clinic
  • AIDSLaw
  • Human Rights Advocacy (analyzed proposed legislation to evaluate effect on indigenous rights)
  • Environmental Law Project (researched property tax policies that promote viability of small farms)
  • Government & Public Service Society (helped coordinate inaugural Careers in Service Symposium)
  • Summer service: 1LCommunity Legal Services of Philadelphia; 2LLawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Lauren Fine ’11Lauren Fine ’11

Fine has volunteered with child welfare and advocacy groups since high school.

Some of Fine’s Duke Law activities:

  • Innocence Project: 1Linvestigator; 2Lcase manager; 3Lreintegration team member
  • Street Law
  • Public Interest Law Foundation: secretary
  • Organized ad hoc seminar on juvenile justice
  • Children’s Law Clinic
  • Southern Justice Spring Break trip to New Orleans
  • Interned with Durham’s Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, through Legal Aid of North Carolina
  • Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy: managing editor; author of “Death Behind Bars: Examining Juvenile Life Without Parole in Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida
  • Summer service: 1LJuvenile Law Center