Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

PILF: Changing the World - One Client at a Time

Created in 1992, PILF is a non-partisan, nonprofit Moritz law organization committed to reducing the financial barriers to working in public interest law by offering fellowships to law students who wish to work in the public sector during the summer and by working with the Office of Professional Development (formerly Placement) to educate students about the rewards of pursuing a public interest careers. Since its inception, Moritz students have worked in more than 10 states providing a variety of services to survivors of domestic violence, children of prisoners, migrant farm workers, Native Americans, people with developmental disabilities, and other outsider groups.

Anita Klagge worked in CLA's Raleigh, North Carolina office. With only three attorneys and several new cases daily, she was quickly put to work drafting demand letters, memos, and motions; conducting phone and in-person intake interviews; and attending court proceedings. She worked on a variety of cases from restoring competency for a woman with mild mental retardation to filing a claim against a neighborhood that would not allow a residing family to build a fence to prevent their autistic child from wandering away from home. Her most rewarding work was with the parents of children with special needs to enforce their school's obligations to accommodate their individual needs.

Anita's satisfaction was echoed by other PILF fellows who made different, but equally important, contributions. Leslie Youssef was involved in the trial of one of the most notorious crack-cocaine dealers in Brooklyn. Leslie says "His conviction resulted in the dissolution of a large drug ring, and therefore created a much safer environment for the people in the neighborhood."

PILF fellows are as likely to be found with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as they are with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. They have chosen to volunteer for the New York U.S. Attorney's Criminal Law Division as well as the Nashville, Tennessee Public Defender's Office. Students approach employers, arrange their summer clerkships, and apply for PILF funding. The organizations they choose are as varied as students' interests. The only limitations are that students do not engage in lobbying activities and that employers are nonprofit or governmental entities. Last summer PILF funded 18 students with grants ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.

PILF summer fellowships are paid for, in part, from the proceeds of the annual PILF Auction in which fellow students, faculty, staff, and members of the legal community bid on a variety of services or items donated by faculty, students, local businesses, law firms, and community leaders.

A community effort, the PILF auction has grown in scope and revenues each year. Donations have included dinner and an amateur play reading evening at Professor Doug Whaley's home, Baker & Hostetler's two field box seats to a Cleveland Indians game, and lunch for two with three Democratic Caucus attorneys followed by a tour of the Ohio Statehouse. Also adding to the success of the event is perennial auctioneer, Professor Art Greenbaum. Art believes in the auction and the work it promotes, "A number of our PILF members and fellows have gone on to do public interest work after graduation, with a number receiving prestigious national fellowships to do so. PILF is at the core of the Moritz College's recognized commitment to promoting public interest law."

bidding at the auction
Bidding at the auction

This year's auction will take place on Wednesday, March 12 in the Ohio Union's West Ballroom. Parking is available in Garage "C" immediately north of the Union. The silent auction begins at 4:00 p.m. and auctioneer Art Greenbaum starts the live, and sometimes uproarious, bidding at 5:00 p.m. All law school faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends are invited to attend. Donations can be made until one hour prior to auction by contacting Beth Newkirk at newkirk.21@osu.edu or by phone at 614-855-4531. Proceeds will fund next summers' Juan Lozada's.

Juan, who worked in the Ohio Attorney General's Civil Rights section as a PILF fellow, says, "I had one of the greatest experiences of my life. Laws against discrimination will never be enough to create a just society; devoted people to enforce them will always be crucial for their effectiveness. I never thought that with just one year of law school I could make such a difference in so many people's lives. Also, by helping others, I helped my self. I gained self-confidence and fell in love with the law again. I thank PILF for giving me the opportunity to do that."