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Public Interest

EPIC grants fund Emory Law students' pro bono work

Emory University School of Law |
This summer, 36 Emory Law students worked for the public good in organizations across the United States, thanks to grants funded by the Emory Public Interest Committee.

The $5,000 grants allow students to work 10 weeks for organizations ranging from federal watchdog offices to environmental nonprofits. Gerard Bifulco 15L worked at the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

“I'm working on a major antitrust investigation concerning technology used on a daily basis,” he said. “If successful, it will have impact on some of the largest websites in the United States.”

In addition to providing real-world experience, the summer experience is designed to help students gauge if the field they’ve chosen is a good fit.

“It absolutely confirmed my interest in antitrust law,” Bifulco said.

Rachel Budde 15L worked in LAMBDA Legal’s Atlanta office. The job revealed the hours of research sometimes necessary to win a single motion. Budde stayed focused by reminding herself of the potential toll upon her client.

“I've done a lot of work on a second-parent adoption case that, if successful, will reunite a mother with her 5-year-old son and will protect the rights of LGBT parents across the state of Florida,” she said. “Whenever I got frustrated with having to look up every other word in a civil procedure-heavy case, I'd look at [his] picture and remember what I was working for. I really hope that we win our appeal and that that little boy can have his mom back.”

Douglas Stephens 15L worked at the Office of Special Council for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices in Washington, D.C., which enforces the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. One case he assisted on resulted in back wages being paid to a wronged immigrant worker.

Working with the Justice Department “is obviously a boon to my pursuit of a civil rights job both for the name recognition and the credibility of the research and writing that I have done,” Stephens said. “However, I think the most helpful aspect has been working on a variety of cases at different stages of development with a number of different attorneys. I have learned vastly more about litigation and the actual practice of law while writing motions, discussing the 'theory of the case' and observing attorney interactions than I ever could from a classroom.”

Margaret Riley 14L has worked with the Barton Child Law and Policy Center since she arrived at Emory Law. Riley knew she wanted to work for child justice, but her work with the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law in Washington, D.C., pointed her toward issues involving foster children.

“I had the opportunity to hear from youth in foster care about their experiences, and translate that into better policy and practice,” Riley said. She was struck by the financial difficulties common to foster children who are transitioning from foster care to adulthood.

She wrote an article for the organization’s national monthly publication on how advocates can help youth prepare to leave care and become financially responsible. This fall, she will work with Fulton County’s Office of the Child Attorney.

Whitney Rappole 14L noticed a recurring problem while volunteering with environmental groups, which she terms, “a massive disconnect between the scientists and environmentalists who were trying to create ways to protect the environment and the lawyers that were needed in order to draft effective plans.”

Rappole is from western New York, which is also home to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy where she worked.

Rappole raised more than $17,000 toward creating a new watershed preserve in Chautauqua County. She also helped individuals learn how to place conservation easements on their property. The job showed her the hurdles nonprofits face while trying to affect meaningful policy on a shoestring budget. She plans to join the New York Bar after graduation.

“I think that it is really important that people who grew up here and then went on to become professionals come back and work here, because of how poor our county is,” she said. Rappole will work with the Turner Environmental Law Clinic in the fall.

Competition for grants was high this year; more than 70 students applied. Students are required to secure an organization’s sponsorship prior to application, and must perform 30 hours of pro bono work in the previous school year to be eligible.

EPIC students raised $187,319 in the 2012-13 academic year, largely from its annual fundraising event, the Inspiration Awards. Private gifts and organizational donations also support summer grants.

Related Links

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