The University of Pennsylvania Law School is awarding its first Philadelphia Fellowship to 2009 graduate Daniel Urevick-Ackelsberg, who will work with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
The Philadelphia Fellowship is awarded annually to a Penn Law alumnus who will divide his or her time working at a Philadelphia-based public interest organization and in the Law School’s Toll Public Interest Center
, counseling students regarding pro bono opportunities and working to cultivate new opportunities for students. A second post-graduate public interest fellowship will be awarded annually beginning in fall 2010 to an alumnus who partners with a national or international public interest organization.
The Fellowships are a new addition to Penn Law’s innovative Toll Public Interest Center, which teaches all students to integrate public service into whatever career paths they choose. Penn Law students must perform at least 70 hours of pro bono service in order to graduate.
“Dan has been absolutely steadfast in his commitment to public interest law both before and during law school,” said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, assistant dean and executive director of public interest at Penn Law. “It is a privilege to help launch what will undoubtedly be a long and impactful public interest career.”
Among his accomplishments in law school, as a student in the Civil Practice Clinic, Dan successfully represented a tenant in a complex eviction case that involved depositions, countless motions and defenses based on fair-housing and racial-discrimination laws. The clinical faculty at Penn Law awarded Ackelsberg its 2009 Outstanding Student Award.
“I grew up in a Germantown home, where working for your community was understood as a requirement of a privileged, comfortable, middle-class existence,” explains Ackelsberg, whose mother organized the community to improve a neighborhood park and whose father, Irv Ackelsberg, was a long-time CLS attorney and is a leading advocate for consumers’ rights. “Beginning as a child, I understood that whatever it was my dad was doing, he was one of the ‘good guys.’”
As part of his Fellowship assignment with Community Legal Services, Ackelsberg will help lead a new effort to protect desperate homeowners from scam artists who buy homes while promising to negotiate more favorable terms with the mortgage company, but then evict the homeowner and steal any equity in the home.
“We are extremely impressed with Dan, and we are excited about sponsoring him for a project that combines his passions and skills with our work to stem the growing tide of home foreclosures,” says Catherine C. Carr, executive director of CLS Philadelphia. “We are particularly thrilled at being the first ‘home’ for this new Penn Law program.”
As part of his Fellowship year, Ackelsberg also will use his relationships with the public interest community to help identify new service opportunities for students.
“When I started at the Law School, I didn’t need to be introduced to public interest lawyers or to the public interest life; I grew up in it.” Ackelsberg said. “For some students, though, I think public interest lawyering is something of a mystery. I can help change that.”
Before beginning his studies at Penn Law, Ackelsberg was a policy analyst at The Reinvestment Fund, where he contributed to research on housing policies. As a law student, he worked on employment issues at CLS. He also is the creator of YoungPhillyPolitics.com, a website dedicated to involving young Philadelphia area residents in progressive politics, and is national champion rower and two-time member of U.S. National Rowing Team who is hoping to compete in the 2012 Olympics.
Penn Law was among the first law schools to require all students to perform public service in order to graduate when it adopted that requirement 20 years ago. Penn Law’s commitment to public service also includes the Toll Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which helps repay student loans for graduates who pursue public interest careers. Among the program’s recent enhancements: graduates who make $45,000 or less working in public interest positions are not required to contribute toward their loan repayment and the maximum loan forgiveness amount has increased to $14,000 per year, or a total possible forgiveness of $140,000 if an alumnus participates in the program for a full 10 years.