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Law School students and alumna receive national public interest fellowships

January 03, 2017

Three Penn Law students and one recent graduate have been awarded sought-after post-graduate fellowships to begin their public interest legal careers.

Blair Bowie L’17 and Elizabeth Levitan L’17 received Skadden Fellowships, which support law school graduates as they conduct two years of work at a public interest organization focused on civil legal services for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, or those deprived of their civil or human rights.

Chelsea Edwards L’15 and Ian Charlton L’17 were awarded Public Interest Law Fellowships from the Independence Foundation. These fellowships support young lawyers engaged in direct representation of disadvantaged clients in the Philadelphia region.

“Public service is a vital and enduring component of a Penn Law education,” said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Associate Dean for Public Interest Programs and Executive Director of the Toll Public Interest Center. “These newly named fellows came to law school with a passion for public service, and the support of these fellowships will allow them to build on the tremendous work they began as students at Penn Law.”

As a Skadden Fellow, Bowie will be working with the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., to direct services and eventual impact litigation for citizens with prior convictions in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, and to challenge overly broad felony disenfranchisement laws and financial barriers to restoring voting rights.

Levitan will be using her Skadden Fellowship to represent young people in the delinquency system through the Youth Advocacy Foundation in Boston, ensuring that they receive all special education services necessary to avoid school failure and successfully reintegrate into school and the community.

For his Independence Foundation Fellowship, Charlton will work with Community Legal Services to utilize direct representation, targeted outreach, and community input to address the housing crisis in low-income Philadelphia neighborhoods. Charlton’s research found that many low-income tenants who are subject to eviction proceedings are not properly notified by their landlords that they must appear in court to defend their possible eviction. His project will seek to keep more tenants in their homes by ensuring that they know that an eviction case is pending against them and by assisting them in their defense when they do appear in court.

With Friends of Farmworkers, Edwards will be defending the rights of women restaurant workers during her Independence Foundation Fellowship. She will also work to make victims financially whole, while creating disincentives to employers who engage in exploitative practices.

Penn Law is committed to supporting students as they launch careers in the public interest. In addition to helping students apply for awards like Skadden Fellowships and the Independence Foundation Fellowships, the Law School also offers its own postgraduate fellowships to financially support graduates who pursue work at public interest organizations, government agencies, and NGOs.