Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance Program (PILRAP) Recipients
Name: Patricia A. Baker-Simon
Position: Senior Attorney
Organization: STOP Violence Against
Women Grants Technical Assistance Project
Location: Washington, DC
I began working at the House of Ruth in Baltimore, representing victims of domestic violence at civil protective order hearings in District Court. I then moved to working for the State of Maryland. I worked in several capacities: as assistant director of the Lt. Governor and Attorney General's Family Violence Council, as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Program Manager and as a Domestic Violence Specialist for the Technical Assistance Unit (TAU) for the "HotSpots" initiative.
Currently, I am the senior attorney for the STOP Violence Against Women Grants Technical Assistance Project (STOP TA), a project of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. I am back in DC (yea!), working directly with the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, providing technical assistance for the STOP Formula Grant Program to the 56 states and territories.
I have worked in this field as a volunteer or employee for just about 8 years.
For me, PILRAP meant being able to choose the work I WANTED to do as opposed to doing work that I HAD to do in order to support a family with two small children. It was freeing to not have the student loan payment as a driving force in choosing a job.
Name: Kevin J. Fandl
Position: Presidential Management Fellow
Organization: U.S. Trade and Development Agency
Location: Washington, DC
Presently, I am employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as an Attorney-Advisor. My appointment, however, is not direct but is through the Presidential Management Fellows program. I was appointed last October as an International Trade Specialist in the Office of Strategic Trade. My work in this office led me to apply for a detail to the Office of Regulations and Rulings, where I serve currently as an attorney-advisor. I will be leaving the agency permanently for a new PMF appointment at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in two weeks, where I will finish out the PMF program as the Special Assistant to the Deputy Director, and then maintain a permanent position at that agency.
As a first-generation college student from a rural, blue-collar village in Pennsylvania, making it on my own through college, graduate school and then law school was a big achievement for me. I could not have done it were it not for the generosity of small grants, Dean's Fellowships and the PILRAP program. Despite working nearly full-time through all 9 years of post-high school programs, the simple fact is that education is extraordinarily expensive. However, it is the most valuable investment that one can make and its returns are plentiful.
Through all of these experiences, I have remained focused on doing something good for the world. In both my academic and professional life, I am pursuing a career that recognizes the importance of development and the eradication of global poverty. I have published two law review articles addressing how we can utilize trade policy reform to fight poverty and work toward the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals, and I plan to address these issues more thoroughly in my new PMF appointment.
Thanks to the PILRAP program, I am able to survive life in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, working at a relatively low level (for an attorney) in the government. PMFs are appointed 3 grades lower than a typical attorney because we are slated to receive benefits through extensive training and details to other agencies. Nonetheless, getting by with well into six-figures of debt and a low salary would not have been possible were it not for the generous support of the WCL PILRAP program. The PILRAP program assistance allows me to focus on the most important things in my life - my wife, and the eradication of global poverty. Thank you WCL for recognizing the importance of public service.
Name: Michael Kirkpatrick
Graduating Class: 1991
Current Position: Attorney
Organization: Public Citizen Litigation Group
Location: Washington, DC
My entire career has been devoted to public interest lawyering. Following my graduation from WCL in 1991, I moved to the Texas/Mexico border to join the Farm Worker Division of Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA), where I represented migrant agricultural workers and other low wage laborers in employment and civil rights matters. While practicing at TRLA, I litigated over two dozen cases in federal court, including several class actions. I also negotiated labor agreements for striking workers and counseled farm worker unions and community organizations.
In 1995, I left TRLA and returned to Washington, DC, to serve as a senior trial attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. At the Civil Rights Division, I litigated employment discrimination cases against state and local government employers, and defended the constitutionality of federal government affirmative action programs. I was lead trial counsel for the US in several complex cases, including disparate impact challenges to the discriminatory use of written cognitive tests in selecting public safety officers.
I am currently an attorney at the Public Citizen Litigation Group where my practice covers a range of subjects, including government secrecy and civil rights cases, and challenges to agency action (or inaction) involving drug safety, nuclear reactor licensing, and trade adjustment assistance.
When I began my practice at a legal services office in far south Texas, my monthly law school loan payments were more than half of my take-home pay. The assistance I received from PILRAP helped me to meet my loan repayment obligations so that I could concentrate on representing migrant farm workers in employment disputes. In part because of PILRAP, I have been able to devote my entire career to public interest lawyering.
Name: Ivy Lange
Graduating Class: 2002
Position: Staff Attorney
Organization: DC Prisoners Legal Services Project
Location: Washington, DC
I am a 2002 graduate of WCL, and now work as a staff attorney at DC Prisoners Legal Services Project, located in Washington, DC. I began my work here as an Equal Justice Works fellow two years ago. During my fellowship, I developed and ran a project working with men and women returning to the community after incarceration. Throughout my project and continuing now, I chaired a community group called the Ex-offender Reintegration Coalition that advocates for local change to assist reentrants. I taught rights education courses in halfway houses in the District, and I worked with individuals struggling to find their way through the legal system and society after incarceration. Since August of this year, I have moved into a staff attorney role with more emphasis on conditions of confinement for people currently incarcerated. I am very excited to be working on two conditions/medical issues cases in Federal District Court with co-counsel from area law firms. I have a wonderful job with a lot of potential for learning and growth. Because we are a small office (only 4 full time employees), I am given a lot of responsibility for program development, case analysis, and advocacy efforts. But, I know that I could not do this work without the assistance I receive from WCL s Public Interest Loan Repayment Program.
PILRAP has been essential to my ability to pay for my law school education. I receive a salary that is average for public interest work, but it is the availability of PILRAP that allows me to make a dent in the loan debt I accrued during law school. Because of the choices I made to do unpaid public interest internships during law school, I left WCL with more than $100,000 in debt. I know I am not alone. WCL prides itself on its commitment to public interest lawyering, and as an environment for legal education, it could not have been more supportive. However, the experience during law school is irrelevant if individuals feel they cannot practice public interest law as a career because of outrageous debt loads. The need is greater now than it ever has been for WCL's program to make strides to keep up with the rising costs of legal education.
Name: Rachel Micah-Jones
Graduating Class: 2003
Organization: Florida Rural Legal Services
Because of WCL's Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance Program, I have been able to pursue the dream with which I entered law school.
My name is Rachel Micah-Jones, and I graduated from WCL in 2003. With the help of the PILRAP, I was able to take a job with the migrant farmworker unit of Florida Rural Legal Services. My work involves representing some of Florida's 250,000 migrant workers, many of whom live and work in conditions that have changed little since they were exposed to the nation in the 1960 documentary, "Harvest of Shame."
Most of my clients come to our office with complaints about their pay. Unfortunately, the laws don't protect farmworkers like they do most other workers. Farmworkers still are not entitled to overtime pay and in half of the states, they are not covered by worker's compensation. On smaller farms, migrants are not even entitled to the minimum wage. I'm currently representing farmworkers in a half dozen cases either in or headed to federal court, and there are so many others who could use my help.
I can easily see myself devoting my career to representing farmworkers. This is difficult to do, because legal services jobs pay salaries far below those of not only the private sector, but also those offered by governmental agencies and public defender offices. Like most WCL grads, I have huge loans, both from law school as well as from my undergraduate days. Without loan repayment assistance, almost half of my salary would go towards these debts. It would be impossible for me to stay with my dream job for long under these circumstances. Thanks to PILRAP, I'm able to continue in legal services. I hope that other WCL graduates will be able to receive PILRAP support so that they too can devote their legal talents to helping those among us who most desperately need this assistance.
Name: Keith Nelson
Current Position: Assistant District Attorney
Organization: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Location: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
I am currently an Assistant District Attorney for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. I spent the first year in the Appellate Division, where I concentrated on Sixth Amendment challenges, Habeas Corpus, and other Constitutional and statutory appeals, both in Commonwealth and Federal courts. Currently, I am in the Pre-Trial Division, where we "screen" cases for trial -- i.e. we meet with law enforcement, go through the evidence, and assess whether or not the correct charges have been brought. We often "adjust" charges or cases where the facts merit, and essentially prep the case for trial.
Even though I had corporate offers upon graduation, I chose a government position because I value public service, and wanted to maximize my skill set. Because of the low salary and high debt I accrued during law school, I would be forced into private practice were it not for the PILRAP assistance. Even though it may not seem like much at first, it makes all the difference in terms of meeting my obligations.