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Public Interest Week March 14-18, Sparer Symposium to Examine "Partnering against Poverty"

March 07, 2011


From Monday, March 14 through Friday, March 18 the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC) at Penn Law will host the Law School’s annual Public Interest Week, a series of workshops, conferences, and events which will explore pressing issues in pro bono and public interest lawyering. The focus of the week will be on the pursuit of justice – and it will help students explore the many ways in which they can engage in advocating for social justice.

The week will culminate in the 30th anniversary of the Sparer Symposium on Friday, March 18, the theme of which is “Partnering Against Poverty: Examining Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Public Interest Lawyering,” and which will convene legal academics and practitioners to provide insight into the dynamic relationship between scholarship and practice in the area of poverty law.

Joan Messing Graff, executive director of the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center, will serve as Honorary Fellow in Residence for Public Interest Week. She will be an active participant in the week’s events and will lecture on “Putting Justice to Work: Defending the Rights of Workers” on Wednesday, March 16 at 5 p.m.

Additional Public Interest Week events will include:

  • A public interest practice area fair and reception;
  • A panel discussion on advocating for justice on consumer matters;
  • A screening of the film Lost Souls and discussion with the film-maker on issues of immigration, migration, and family;
  • A workshop for students on how to thrive as a public interest lawyer;
  • A discussion on racialized tracking in American schools;
  • A panel discussion on litigation strategy in the context of disability rights;
  • A workshop on the nuts-and-bolts of post-graduate public interest fellowships;
  • The week will end with the third annual Penn Law Public Interest Alumni Dinner, bringing current students together with the legal professionals in whose footsteps they hope to follow.

For a complete list of events, see the Public Interest Week Calendar.

As part of Public Interest Week, the Sparer Symposium on Friday, March 18, will explore novel solutions to the poverty crisis in the U.S., addressing both the advantages and difficulties of cross-sector and cross-profession collaboration. The Symposium has been designed to facilitate critical discussion among participants, and will include practitioners from diverse backgrounds as well as people facing the myriad problems associated with poverty.

Sparer Symposium panelists will address issues related to the law and poverty, such as prisoner re-entry; the poverty-environment connection; digital approaches to poverty mitigation; and advocating for healthy and affordable food. Sister Mary Scullion, Co-Founder, Executive Director and President of Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia, will present a talk on Friday, March 18 at 5 p.m. at the closing reception. The Symposium has been approved for 6 hours of substantive CLE credit and 1.5 hours of ethics CLE credit for Pennsylvania lawyers.

For a complete list of Symposium panels and participants, see the Sparer Symposium Schedule.

Penn Law’s Toll Public Interest Center, founded in 1989, provides students meaningful opportunities to provide pro bono legal service to under-represented communities. The Center’s pro bono program, which includes a 70-hour pro bono requirement and emphasizes students’ professional development, has been recognized with the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award.