Dickinson Law students recognized for significant contributions to public interest and pro bono causes
May 16, 2019 — Second- and third-year Dickinson Law students were recognized for their service in public interest and pro bono programs throughout the 2018-19 academic year during a ceremony on Friday, May 10, at Lewis Katz Hall.
As the hub of public interest law at Dickinson Law, the Miller Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy was founded on the notion that it is the obligation of every lawyer, regardless of type of practice, to serve the underrepresented. Students gain practical experience by working for international, national or regional nonprofit organizations, or for government entities at the federal, state or local levels and advocating for the underrepresented. This year’s honorees served at organizations such as Bethesda Mission Men’s Shelter in Harrisburg, Project SHARE in Carlisle, expungement clinics throughout the region, and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), which provides tax assistance to low-income members of the community.
“Helping people who had nowhere else to turn—regardless of how much you did for them—and the fact that you listened to them and gave them that dignity is as rewarding as anything else in the practice of law,” said Dean and Director of the Miller Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy Gary S. Gildin during his opening remarks. “My hope is that you lived the value of service as a student here, and that you will carry it with you outward in your career.”
Courtney Lewis ‘19 was named the Miller Center Advocate of the Year for her outstanding participation in pro bono activities, public interest summer work and curricular opportunities, and leadership amongst fellow students in public interest and pro bono activities. During her three years at Dickinson Law, Lewis completed more than 400 hours of public interest, pro bono and community service to the Carlisle Borough Council through the Leading Law Students Program, VITA, Dickinson Law’s Children’s Advocacy Clinic, Pennsylvania Innocence Project, and Office of Capital and Forensic Writs in Austin, TX.
Giovanna Brackbill ‘20, Ian Brinkman ‘19, Andrea Jenkins ‘19, Samuel E. Manning III ‘20, Tyler Ritchie ’20 and Marcus Spisso ’19 were named Miller Center Distinguished Advocates for their commitment to public interest through public interest and pro bono summer jobs, curricular opportunities and pro bono activities. These students provided hundreds of hours of pro bono, public interest and community service.
Tara Giarratano ‘20, Patrick Hanley ‘20, Ashley Javitz ’20 and Alisa Petersen ’20 were named Pro Bono Advocates for providing at least 10 hours of free, supervised legal assistance to needy or vulnerable members of the community.
Marcus Spisso ‘19 received the Clinical Legal Education Association Outstanding Student Award for his demonstrated excellence in a clinical course and positive contributions to the clinical community, having provided more than 260 hours of service as part of Dickinson Law’s Children’s Advocacy Clinic. Under the supervision of Clinic Director and Professor of Clinical Law Lucy Johnston-Walsh, law students represent children who are abused or neglected, as well as those involved in other civil court actions such as adoption, domestic violence and custody matters.
Jenifer Bergman ‘20, Ian Brinkman ‘19, Lucia Cuenca 20, Alana Goycochea ‘20, Marisa Halm ‘20, Courtney Lewis ‘19, Andrew Lindhome ‘19, Brian Ragunan ‘20, Tyler Ritchie ’20 and Marcus Spisso ’19—all of whom served as Leading Law Students—were also recognized for serving on the boards of local non-profits and non-government organizations. As non-voting members of these boards, students develop leadership skills, build a professional network across professional sectors outside the law, and support causes important to them in a non-legal manner.
“We believe every lawyer should serve their community throughout their career,” said Lauren Hartley ’15, assistant director of the Miller Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy. “Those who participate during their time in law school are more likely to give back later in their careers, so I am pleased that we can offer students a variety of types of service opportunities during their time here at Dickinson Law.”
Both Lewis ’19 and Spisso ’19 were also awarded a post-graduate Bridge Fellowship, which will enable them to continue their public interest work this fall. Many public interest organizations cannot hire a recent graduate, even a highly-qualified one, until after they have been admitted to the bar. The Bridge Fellowships provide temporary financial support for recent grads as they volunteer for a potential future employer while awaiting admission to the bar.