Harvard Law School students and recent graduates have won an unprecedented eight Skadden Fellowships to pursue public interest work. The awards represent the most given to applicants from any single law school in the 15-year history of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation.
“We are thrilled that our students and judicial clerks received such a generous number of the coveted Skadden Fellowships and will therefore be able to contribute their skills to a large variety of communities that could greatly benefit from additional legal assistance,” said Alexa Shabecoff, director of the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising.
“This is a credit to Judy Murciano, our fellowships director, who works intensively with all the applicants. But in the end, this is a testament to our incredible students – their many talents, their hard work in thinking about the communities they hope to serve and the issues they want to tackle, and their passion for public service.”
The fellows will pursue public interest work in a variety of areas, including legal services to low-income urban residents, minorities, and recent immigrants.
Dean Elena Kagan’86, who has emphasized the importance of public service since assuming the deanship, praised the Skadden Fellows for focusing their legal training on underserved communities. “Through their commitment to public service, these students and recent graduates help fulfill a vital part of our mission,” said Kagan. “While it is wonderful to see Harvard Law School win more of these fellowships than ever before, the real winners are the people who will benefit from the great work of our Skadden Fellows.”
This year’s Skadden Fellowship recipients and their area of public interest work are as follows:
Steven Choi ’04 will provide free legal representation to low-wage Korean workers in New York with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Melanca Clark ’02 will work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund to improve employment opportunities for nonviolent ex-offenders through litigation, legislation, and public education.
Nicole De Sario ’03 will work with the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia to provide direct legal representation to groups of low-income tenants to improve housing conditions.
James Freeman ’03 will work with Advancement Project to advocate on behalf of limited-English-proficient students, particularly students within new Latino communities in southern states.
Michael Gregory ’04 will work with the family law unit at Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain to represent children with special educational needs.
Sharmila Murthy ’03 will work with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands and local Latino, Kurdish, and Somali community groups to advocate for the rights of immigrants and refugees in Nashville.
Brooke Richie ’04 will work at the Welfare Law Center in New York to protect against rights violations for working heads of households under New York’s welfare-to-work laws.
Carrie Schneider ’04 will work with the Greater Boston Institute at the Conservation Law Foundation to improve public transit access.
Skadden Fellowship recipients say the award will allow them to pursue their interests and see the effects of public policy at the community level. Murthy said she applied for her fellowship after learning of the growing immigrant and refugee community in Nashville, Tenn., where she now clerks for Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A child of immigrants, Murthy said she’s always wanted to help people from other countries, who are often unaware of their legal rights in the United States: “Generally, there isn’t too much representation of non-English-speaking people from these communities and so we recognized that as a need that really needed to be filled here.”
Richie, who is pursuing a joint degree at the Kennedy School of Government, said she has always worked on public assistance issues, and the Welfare Law Center “is perfectly tailored to my legal interests.” Her work there will include collaborating with community groups, helping people gain access to education and training, and expanding the network of available attorneys.
“I definitely plan to stay in the field of welfare-related law,” said Richie. “My goal is to start a nonprofit, and I think that this will give me a lot of hands-on experience meshing legal advocacy and policy advocacy.”
The Skadden Fellowship Foundation, established in 1988 by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, each year awards 25 fellowships to graduating law students and outgoing judicial clerks. Fellows are provided a $37,500 salary and fringe benefits package, with the expectation of renewal for a second year. With the newest additions, a total of 75 Harvard Law students and alumni have earned Skadden Fellowships, the most from any law school.