MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIAThis summer, 15 students from the West Virginia University College of Law are gaining valuable work experience in public interest law while helping those in need.
The students are recipients of a 10-week long Public Interest Advocates (PIA) Fellowship awarded by the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest. PIA Fellows work at non-profit legal services organizations and help those living in poverty with complex legal issues in family matters, consumer law, housing, and protection from abuse.
The PIA Fellowship is rewarding personally and professionally for Lia Deane, a rising second-year law student working at Legal Aid of West Virginia in Charleston.
“Dealing directly with clients is the experience I was hoping for in law school,” she said. “I wanted to get hands-on, practical experience this summer so that I could apply the things I learned during my first year. Legal Aid lets me do that every day.”
In addition to Deane, the 2014 WVU PIA Fellows are Bethany Burdette ‘16, Taylor Graham ‘15, Patrick Holbrook ‘16, Brown Holston ‘15, Martin McKeen ‘15, Alex Meade ‘16, Aaron Moss ‘16, Laura Lee Partington ‘14, Allison Santer ‘16, Jordan Smith ‘16, Shane Snyder ‘15, Jenny Thoma ‘16, Phil Wachowiak ‘16, and Stephanie Welsh ‘15.
They are working at the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, ChildLaw Services, Mountain State Justice, Senior Legal Aid of West Virginia, West Virginia Advocates, and as state and federal public defenders.
“There is a grave need for public interest lawyers in West Virginia and the nation,” said Jennifer Powell, director of WVU Law’s Center for Law and Public Service. “Our public interest fellowships give law students a feel for what the work is like while they are helping those in need. Over the years, students have often made public interest law their career choice because of this program.”
Since 1987, more than 320 WVU law students have received public interest fellowships from the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest. The fund is supported, in part, by the PIA student organization at WVU Law.
“We are the only program of this kind in the state,” said Powell. “We help close the justice gap for many poor West Virginians who cannot afford legal services.”