Past Fellows: 2011 Fellows
For summer 2012, I received a PILA fellowship to clerk with the ACLU of Georgia’s National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project. The ACLU of GA is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocating and defending civil liberties in our state. The National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project in particular focuses upon maintaining international human rights standards in Georgia for the treatment of immigrants and refugees, as well as monitoring
national security issues such as government surveillance of civilians.
The summer working environment at the ACLU of GA is incredibly active, warm and supportive. I met dozens of amazingly dedicated fellow law and undergraduate students from across the country that had come to Georgia to clerk for the ACLU. Clerks get to know the staff well personally and professionally, and the staff is always willing to offer assistance and guidance for clerks and interns. Clerking here is not just about drafting legal memos and submitting them to supervisors—it’s an immersive and interactive experience in which clerks are frequently invited to attend rallies, demonstrations, ACLU of GA committee meetings, and government hearings; as well as develop real-world legal experience through investigating cases involving a wide variety of people, from college students to law enforcement officers to business owners to undocumented immigrants. In addition, clerks are able to meet and interact with a network of local public interest lawyers and nonprofit community leaders and partners.
My entire summer at the ACLU of GA, in particular its National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project, was an invaluable experience. I greatly recommend any fellow law student interested in the fields of public interest, civil rights and/or immigration law give consideration to it when deciding where to clerk or extern. I’m very grateful to PILA, whose fellowships offer GSU law students the opportunity to spend time learning from and working with such incredible
Thanks to the PILA scholarship, I was able to focus my attention on what I genuinely wanted to do my first summer of law school instead of what would pay the bills. I couldn't have picked a better place. Within the first week at Atlanta Legal Aid, I was working on a client's divorce proceeding, sifting through discovery packets, and answering phone calls from clients concerning their legal issues (mostly family, housing, and bankruptcy issues). My last week, I represented a client in an unemployment hearing and successfully secured her unemployment benefits. During this time, I was reaffirmed and invigorated about my choice to pursue a career in public interest. Thank you so much PILA!
This past summer I interned with the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. The best part of my experience was being able to take advantage of the 3rd Year Practice Act and hone my skills in the courtroom. I argued motions, conducted plea bargains, and questioned witnesses in pre-trial hearings. Because DA's offices always have huge caseloads, it's a fantastic place to get some real, hands-on experience. The attorneys in the Fulton DA are also highly receptive to interns' thoughts about a case. The environment is very conducive to learning trial procedure and criminal law. I thoroughly enjoyed my summer.
This summer I was given the opportunity to intern at the Georgia Innocence Project (GIP), where I assisted GIP in its mission to use DNA evidence to free those unjustly incarcerated in Georgia and Alabama prisons. I was moved by stories of innocent people spending large portions of their lives in prison for crimes they did not commit. I hoped to find physical evidence that could lead to GIP’s next exoneration. It was a unique and rewarding experience that was made possible thanks to a PILA fellowship.
Over the summer, I conducted fact-intensive case investigations to evaluate the inmates’ claims of innocence. I reviewed trial transcripts, police reports, and forensic findings from each case and drafted memos describing the facts of each case and the physical evidence that might still exist. I then contacted state and local agencies to attempt to locate this physical evidence, which GIP would DNA test to prove a client’s innocence. With this evidence, the client is one step closer to exoneration. The process is lengthy; it may be years before a client is released, if at all. But I am thankful to have played even a small part in a client’s potential exoneration.
I am also thankful to the Public Interest Law Association. My PILA fellowship enabled me to cultivate my interest in criminal defense, gain practical legal experience, and work with a talented and dedicated group of attorneys and interns.
As a recipient of a fellowship from PILA I was able to spend my summer working with an organization who does work that I strongly believe in. I worked for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, whose mission is “to advocate and secure the protection and stewardship of the Chattahoochee River, its tributaries and watershed, in order to restore and preserve their ecological health for the people and wildlife that depend on the river system.” I worked for the Riverkeeper’s General Counsel doing research on issues affecting the health of the Chatahoochee watershed. I researched various things such as proposed reservoirs around the state and recently amended Georgia regulations for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Thanks to the hard work of everyone at PILA I have been to gain incredible experience this summer that is already helping to focus my career in law.
As a result of receiving a full PILA Fellowship, I was able to complete a full-time summer internship at the DeKalb County Public Defender's Office under the Third Year Practice Act. Through this internship I gained invaluable experience including drafting and arguing motions, conducting jail interviews, and representing clients in magistrate court, state court, and superior court for probable cause hearings, probation revocations, and pretrials. Unfortunately, none of the cases I worked on this summer went to trial; however, my supervising attorneys have graciously agreed to extend my internship through the fall semester. Based on the work I have already completed at the public defender’s office and the relationships I have built with my supervising attorneys as well as other attorneys in the office, I can say without a doubt in my mind that this internship could not have been more rewarding! Thanks PILA for making it all possible!
I made the decision to attend law school for the sole purpose of becoming a public defender. I have had several amazing internship opportunities during school that have helped me serve the indigent population, notably the Georgia Innocence Project and the Southern Center for Human Rights. However, not until I worked daily at the public defender’s office this summer, under the guidance of three amazing attorneys, did I gain a true understanding of the system, the disparities and the nature of indigent defense. The attorneys I worked with handled only major felonies, such as murder, rape, aggravated assaults, aggravated batteries, armed robbery, and the like. They all treated me as a member of the team and trusted me to help them with their cases. From speaking with inmates in jail and interviewing their families to investigating the crimes they were charged with and representing them in court on a hearing or motion, I was privileged to learn just what it takes to be a criminal defense attorney in Georgia and just how hard public defenders work. I am pleased I made the decision to come to law school to be a public defender. I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life and the fellowship allowed me to confirm that I made the right decision with my career choice.
This summer I interned with the DeKalb County Office of the Solicitor-General. The Solicitor General’s Office is responsible for prosecuting the misdemeanor crimes that are committed within DeKalb County. During my time at the Solicitor-General’s Office, I learned to review case files and determine what crimes to charge defendants with, how to prepare and file discovery, and how to inform defendants of their rights when entering in to plea agreements. I was also sworn in under the Third Year Practice Act and was able to get invaluable hands on experience in the courtroom. I conducted plea negotiations with numerous defendants as well as conducted bond hearings, motions to suppress, and even a full-length jury trial, during which I picked a jury, gave an opening statement, examined witnesses, and gave a closing argument. The opportunity to conduct a jury trial before even passing the bar was an invaluable experience that I am very grateful to have had. My receipt of the PILA Fellowship played a large role in my ability to get so much legal experience this summer because receiving the fellowship allowed me to focus fulltime on gaining legal experience that will no doubt be an asset to my future career. My experience at the Solicitor-General’s Office strengthened my desire to become a prosecutor and helped me gain the skills necessary to practice in smart prosecution.
The 2012 PILA Fellowship Award enabled me to volunteer full-time at the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless (GLCH) for the summer. The organization provides a wide range of legal services for the homeless and those facing imminent homelessness. I hit the ground running on my first day there, researching case law for an affordable housing voucher termination hearing the next morning for a young single mom of two children under the age of three potentially facing life on the streets. Every day presented me with a new opportunity to learn or experience something interesting. I regularly interacted with homeless clients, conducted intake and interviews, and observed administrative hearings and court proceedings. I researched and wrote memoranda on numerous civil legal issues affecting our clients in several areas of law—civil procedure, administrative law, juvenile law, family law, and landlord-tenant law and drafted motions and advice letters for the attorneys. I attended eviction hearings, landlord-tenant mediations, juvenile deprivation proceedings, custody hearings, disability hearings, and even a full-length divorce trial. The experience gave me great insight into how to best be an advocate and inspired me to remain committed to my goals of improving our legal system for the most marginalized members of our society.
Thanks to the PILA Fellowship, I was able to spend my summer working for the Metro Conflict Defender Office in Fulton County. As an arm of the Public Defender System in Georgia, the Metro Conflict Defender Office handles conflict cases in Fulton County that the Public Defender Office is unable to take. This summer, serving under the third year practice act, I was able to work both outside the courtroom interviewing clients and making jail visits, but also inside the courtroom arguing bond hearings and negotiating pleas. The PILA Fellowship allowed me to focus on my internship, gaining as much experience as I possibly could without having to worry about working to pay my bills. I got the experience of witnessing criminal procedure from arraignment to trial, including tracking down witnesses, visiting crime scenes, and personally negotiating charges with Assistant District Attorneys. I came to law school with the hopes of making a difference. My internship helped prove to me that criminal defense is a way I could be a voice to those who need it most, making a difference and ensuring the punishment fit the crime. My hands on experience in the courtroom and dealing with people accused of and guilty of felonies gave me the knowledge to now know what I plan to do with my law degree, and the comfort in the courtroom to know that I am capable of achieving my goals. I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in criminal law to intern with the Metro Conflict Defender Office. My experience was hands on, in a way making copies and researching cases could never provide, and I enjoyed every minute of it!
I spent the summer of 2012 working for the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office. Within the first week, I was sworn in to practice under the Third Year Practice Act. Throughout my time with the Cobb County DA’s office, I had the opportunity to draft felony indictments and accusations, which strengthened my legal writing skills. Within the first few weeks of my internship, I was able to conduct grand jury indictment hearings under the careful watch of my supervising attorney. Before the end of the summer, I was able to conduct probation revocation hearings, bond revocation hearings, probable cause hearings, as well as negotiated and non-negotiated guilty pleas. I also had the opportunity to attend autopsies at the Medical Examiner’s office, as well as watch a variety of felony jury trials, including multiple murder trials. I formed relationships with experienced attorneys who provided me with invaluable advice about criminal law practice after graduation. I entered law school with a strong interest in criminal law, and this internship, made possible by the PILA Fellowship, certainly helped to solidify my desire to eventually practice in this field.
Health Law Partnership (HeLP)
“As a result of receiving a full PILA Fellowship I was able to intern with the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) over the summer. HeLP is a partnership between Georgia State, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and Atlanta Legal Aid that helps provide legal services to low-income children and their families who are patients at one of the many Children's Healthcare of Atlanta locations. Through this internship I gained invaluable experience in a variety of legal areas (administrative law, family law, and estate planning), and learned best practices that will help me with my legal career for the rest of my life. Perhaps more importantly, through my experience with HeLP I was able to see the difference that public interest law can make in improving the health and well-being of families with limited resources. For example, I was able to assist a client negotiate with the Atlanta Public Housing Authority to move her housing voucher away from a dangerous, high-crime area. Overall, my experience at HeLP solidified my commitment to making public interest work a part of my legal career for the rest of my life.”
Metro Conflict Defender
“Last Sumer I earned a $1000 fellowship and volunteered with the Metro Conflict Defender Office. I used the money to pay summer rent/bills that my student loans were not going to cover. Without the fellowship, it would have been extremely difficult for me to get any legal experience due to whatever regular job I may have been forced to take (waiting tables, construction, etc.). the MCDO is very similar to the state public defender program. I had one-on-one contact with criminal defendants on a weekly basis (either in person or via phone) and was in the court room several times over the course of the summer. I became very familiar with discovery, interviewing clients, court room dialogue and its general process, as well as law office dialogue/vocabulary. I believe this was great experience. Further, the judge I met during this internship offered me a clerkship the following semester. I met a lot of other lawyers as well. The fellowship opens up a lot of doors--whether you want to be in the public interest sector during your career or not. You’d be crazy not to apply for one.”
Georgia Innocence Project
“I spent the summer of 2011 working at the Georgia Innocence Project. It was a wonderful experience that was made possible thanks to a PILA fellowship. Each day, I read letters from prisoners in Georgia and Alabama and evaluated the claims to determine if further investigation was warranted. If so, I followed up with phone calls to the courts, defense attorneys, and various law enforcement agencies. I then drafted memos detailing the facts of the cases and the physical evidence, if any, that still existed. I then presented the viable cases to our Board of Directors to determine whether we should continue investigating. At the end of the summer, we made visits to several prisons in Alabama and Georgia to visit our potential clients. These prison visits were particularly powerful because I finally got to see the men behind the letters. I really enjoyed my entire summer with the Georgia Innocence Project, and was especially blessed to work with such a talented and knowledgeable staff and group of interns. I would highly recommend this internship experience to those interested in criminal defense, prosecution or investigation. It is a unique and rewarding opportunity.”
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
“This summer I worked as a judicial clerk to federal administrative judge Darin Tuggle in the Hearings Unit at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There I worked with the judge to review case files, including extensive investigative records, to analyze the merits and determine the outcome in several employment discrimination cases under federal law. The claims I worked on included race and sex claims under Title VII (both disparate treatment and harassment), disability discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act, and claims for retaliation under a variety of statutes. While working at the EEOC I learned a great deal about employment discrimination and also got to "see behind the curtain" of the judicial process to understand how judges decide cases and write opinions. I wrote several full-length judicial opinions on motions for summary judgment which the judge adopted and I have been able to use as writing samples. I also got to observe the EEO hearings process first-hand and meet attorneys practicing employment law, a field of great interest to me, from both federal agencies and private practice. My PILA grant enabled me to develop my interest and experience working in civil rights law at the federal level, cultivate my writing skills and gain meaningful judicial clerkship experience. I'm grateful for the support and the opportunity to work in public interest.”
Hunton and Williams Pro Bono Fellow
“My summer serving the public interest through the PILA Fellowship was full of unexpected opportunities and connections, serving the youngest in need of legal guidance in juvenile court and private adoption proceedings alongside Hunton and Williams Pro Bono Fellow Aisha Collins to the oldest in need at Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s Senior Citizens Law Project. My goal was to gain exposure to a broad spectrum of issues and styles, and the collection of attorneys with whom I worked provided that. In Judge Hodges’s courtroom, I advocated for the best interest of the child charged in unruly and ungovernable petitions after interviewing parents, mentors and the children themselves. From that experience, I learned to recognize and address sexual exploitation, gang and educational advocacy issues—and even simple, hormone-charged teenagers—with the aid of several counseling and family health service organizations, including CHRIS Kids and Georgia Care Connection. With Legal Aid, my primary and most frequent responsibilities related to interviewing clients to obtain necessary information for subsequent document prep—notices to debtors and creditors, deeds, petitions for year’s support, and discharge petitions. This also included learning the process of completing and properly reporting a deed search, as well as assembling an appeals packet for DFCS. After interviewing the clients, I was often charged with completing research assignments in order to clearly align our strategy. I was able to serve as a witness for advance health care and financial directives, at Grady Hospital and at clients’ homes.
"My experience at ALAS strengthened my convictions about careers in public interest law or legal services upon graduation. I was excited to be with a unit that reached a broad range of income levels, as well as whose work encompassed so many evolving fields: public benefits, wills and estates, general property issues and consumer fraud. Whether I enter a public interest field directly or begin my legal career at a private firm, such service will be a deciding factor in accepting any offer. In the long-term, I expect to commit myself full-time to a non-profit or legal services organization. I am incredibly grateful to PILA for the financial support that enabled me to craft my own volunteer experience this summer."
Human Rights in Democracy Center
“My fellowship funded my experience living in Tirana, the capital of Albania, and working for the Human Rights in Democracy Centre, a human rights NGO. HRDC mostly works with women in domestic violence situations. HRDC also advocates for Roma and monitors the single detention center for women and children in Albania. They have two staff attorneys as well as two social workers and a nurse. The staff attorneys work with clients to help them understand their legal rights and to advocate for them in divorce proceedings. While I was there, HRDC also held several training sessions at health centers to educate health workers about their legal obligations under national domestic violence laws, including proper ways to record evidence of violence. This education is really important, because HRDC has often seen the courts reject grants of protection orders when the documentation was not proper. While I was there, HRDC arranged meetings for me with police chiefs, the special liaison for domestic violence in the Tirana precinct, and several judges who work in the Tirana civil court. I attended hearings at the court and also sat in on sessions with the staff attorneys and clients. I learned some Albanian while I was there, but often my colleagues would have to translate or interpret for me. However, I was able to assist them with writing and editing project proposals in English, to be submitted to various entities that provide funding. My experience gave me insight into how a human rights NGO in a developing country functions. Additionally, I learned much about the function of and the problems in the legal system of Albania, valuable for me because I hope to one day work in this region of the world.”
Public Defender's Office in Dekalb County
"I came into law school as the kid who asked the dean during orientation, 'What if you don't want to be a lawyer?' A lot has changed since then, mostly because of PILA and various public interest attorneys around the metro area. PILA is great organization that instills in law students at all levels that one's J.D. can be used to serve a greater good than one's lifestyle. Last summer I was fortunate enough to receive a PILA Fellowship Award which allowed me to spend the entire summer working under the Third Year Practice Act alongside some great lawyers at the Public Defender's Office in Dekalb County. The experience was more than I could have asked for. Not only did I get to write and argue motions, handle jail interviews and represent clients a probable cause hearings and probation revocations, I was even able to sit second chair for a major-felony trial in August. The opportunities the Fellowship afforded me are priceless and have probably done more for my legal education than attending class. So apply, you will not regret it."
Pro Bono Partnership
"The Pro Bono Partnership is an organization that provides transactional legal services to nonprofits in the metro Atlanta area. I was fortunate enough to work with them for two summers in a row. During my internship, I drafted documents for clients, performed research based on client needs, and wrote law-related articles on nonprofit current events. It was great getting to work with experienced lawyers practicing in so many different areas of law, and even better to interact directly with such a great group of clients."
Rockdale County District Attorney's Office
"As a recipient of a PILA scholarship, I was able to intern at the Rockdale County District Attorney's Office. I was sworn in to practice under the Third Year Practice Act and began working with the assistant district attorneys on their various hearings and cases. Almost every week, I participated in probable cause hearings at the county jail, probation revocation hearings in superior court, tracked down evidence and witnesses, researched case law and drafted motions and orders. I enjoyed the opportunity to practice law in a courtroom so much that I decided to return for the fall semester. And in January, I will prosecute a shoplifting case scheduled for a bench trial. The PILA scholarship helped fund a summer of learning through practice at the district attorney's office and began professional relationships that continue today."
Fulton County Juvenile Court
"I spent my summer working at the Fulton County Juvenile Court, in the chambers of Chief Judge Belinda Edwards. Working in the judiciary system exposed me to a plethora of legal happenings, and gave me firsthand knowledge of how the substantive and procedural laws work together."
"I worked on a variety of issues in child deprivation and juvenile delinquency cases, and saw such things as the inner workings of rehabilitation programs set in place for both minors and/or their parents suffering from substance abuse. The court has allowed me to continue my internship, and in November I was able to to volunteer in the National Adoption Day program.
"The PILA Fellowship afforded me the opportunity to spend my summer working a the field of law which I have come to love, and allowed me to be active and effective in the lives of our local community's youth. The experience I gained was priceless."
As one of GSU College of Law's most active student organizations, PILA offers students a chance to get involved, meet their peers, and contribute to their school and community.