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Students celebrate 20 years of supporting peers’ work in the public interest

February 25, 2010

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    Directors of the 2010 Public Interest Law Project Auction, from left to right: Ellie Dawson, Adam Adkin, and Karen Long

Lewis & Clark Law School alumni choose careers in public interest law at a rate nearly three times the national average. A number of programs and projects at the law school, such as legal clinics, externships, and the Public Interest Law Project (PILP) help students and graduates succeed in the sector.

For the past 20 years, PILP has organized an auction to raise funds in support of summer stipends for students who work in the public sector and loan assistance for recent graduates who work in public interest positions. Student organizers of the 2010 auction, which will take place on March 6, hope to raise $100,000 at the event.

Here, the auction directors, Ellie Dawson, Adam Adkin, and Karen Long, discuss the importance of the project and their goals for the event.

What is the mission of the Public Interest Law Project, and what is its impact?

PILP exists to promote public interest law on and off campus. PILP brings in speakers to discuss all types of public interest law, from environmental to domestic violence to public defense. We also raise funds to support students in their public interest careers, mostly by providing stipends so that students can work for public interest organizations that would not be able to hire them otherwise. We also support the Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which helps lawyers ameliorate their debt once they embark on a public interest law career.

This year is the twentieth annual auction hosted by PILP. What do you think the keys to this event’s success and longevity have been?

We have a legal community at Lewis & Clark and in the greater Portland area that is incredibly supportive of public interest law, more so than most areas. Lewis & Clark consistently ranks among the nation’s top public interest law schools, and the success of the auction reflects that support.

How many students and faculty are involved with PILP?

PILP has a wonderful faculty advisor, Bill Penn, who works in the Career Services office. We also have several faculty members who help out on a regular basis with the auction and other events. There is also an Advisory Board comprising faculty, staff, and attorneys in the community. The PILP Board itself has about 15 student members, varying from year-to-year, and there are scores of student volunteers who help out with the auction and our other events. 

What will the auction be like this year, and who should attend?

Everyone should attend, provided they are 21 and older! The cost is only $20 for students (or simply make a donation and you get in for free) and $30 general admission, far below the standard for similar events in Portland, especially since there will be free food and drink. The theme is “One Hundred Grand! Our Twentieth Annual Celebration!” reflecting our goal of raising $100,000 for our 20th year. We have some excellent items, including ready-made date nights with movie tickets and restaurant gift certificates, courtside Blazer tickets, a week stay on the Oregon coast, and of course, plenty of bottles of great wine. 

Besides the auction, what other activities and events does PILP host to raise money throughout the year?

PILP has a yearly karaoke night, where we bring together professors and students to rock to our favorite tunes. We also have a poker night that raises funds, as well as several smaller fundraisers during the year like restaurant partnerships and candy sales.

The funds that PILP raises throughout the year support the work of recent alumni and current students. PILP stipend recipients work in a variety of public interest areas. Can you offer some examples?

Stipend recipients perform legal work under the supervision of practicing attorneys over their summer. The work that they do depends upon the organizations that they are working for. Some recent examples of hosting organizations include Legal Aid Services of Oregon, CRAG Law Center, Oceana, Center for Food Safety, the Community Development Law Center, and the Juvenile Rights Project. An entire list of organizations can be found at our website.

Learn more about PILP’s work in this video feature about a student who received a stipend to work for an organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income individuals and families.

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