UC Hastings has long been known for its strong support of students who wish to pursue careers in public interest and social justice law.
The school has had a Social Justice Lawyering Concentration since 2007. Each year, the college graduates law students who go on to work in public service agencies and public interest organizations around the country.
Those students frequently get their start at unpaid summer positions, beginning after their first year of study. Each year, the UC Hastings Public Interest Foundation (HPILF) raises funds for stipends to make this work and vital job experience possible.
This year, HPILF raised more than $70,000, which will fund $4,000 stipends for 22 students. Yet more than 82 students applied for summer grants this year.
Jessie Cassella, co-president of HPILF, said the group was only able to provide 13 grants last year. “Our auction was really successful this year, and we’ve been fortunate to receive additional donations from students, alumni, and faculty.
“As I read through these applications, I was struck by how each person deserved a grant. If I could fund each of them myself, I would!” Cassella said.
Grant recipients consistently report the summer work launched their careers. “The HPILF grant leveled the playing field so I was able to choose what I wanted to do based on my passion and commitment to serving low-income communities, and not based on financial need,” said 3L Nancy Li, who received a 2013 HPILF grant for her summer work at the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office.
For 2L Sonya Rahders, the grant means she can continue working for gender equality and reproductive justice. Rahders has a BA in Sociology with a minor in Women’s Studies from UCLA, and is the incoming Editor-in-Chief of the Hastings Women’s Law Journal. She has also served as president of UC Hastings Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and as co-director of development for HPILF. She is completing course work for the Social Justice Lawyering Concentration.
This summer, she will be at the ACLU of Southern California’s Reproductive Justice, LGBT Rights and Gender Equity Project. When describing her motivation for public interest work, Sonya explained, “I came to Hastings because I believe that the law has tremendous power to effect social change, and I feel like I have a real responsibility to use my educational privilege to make that change happen. HPILF and the Social Justice Concentration provide invaluable resources and a strong community that have reminded me this work is not only necessary, it is actually possible.”
Students work at state and federal agencies and groups that serve the environment, the LGBTQ community, domestic violence survivors, children, immigrants, local tenants, the disabled, and others.
Agencies and placements include:
“HPILF is a student-run organization. HPILF’s work enables our students to gain meaningful legal experience and improve the lives of hundreds of Californians,” said Nancy Stuart, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning. “I’m happy to support their efforts to fund summer grants to make this work possible, and hope you will too!”
It’s not too late to fund one of the more than 60 students who did not receive a grant for their work this summer. To learn more how you can contribute, click here.