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Penn Law’s Public Interest Week 2019

October 18, 2019

Penn Law’s 12th annual Public Interest Week begins Monday, October 21. This annual celebration of service immerses Penn Law in events that focus on critical issues of justice and exceptional examples of advocacy for the greater good. This year’s theme, Connected: Reimagining Community in the Pursuit of Justice, highlights both the intersectionality of so many challenges facing clients and communities, while also emphasizing the importance of collaboration to generate real and lasting change. Renowned guests throughout Public Interest Week will include Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director for National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), and Kimberlé Crenshaw, Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA and Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, where she is also the Director of Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies.

Each year the Law School invites a noted practitioner working in the public interest arena to serve as Honorary Fellow-in-Residence. In 2019, Kristen Clarke, a civil rights advocate who also speaks and writes regularly on issues of race, law, and justice, will serve as Fellow. Through her work at the Lawyers’ Committee, Clarke seeks to promote fair housing and community development, economic justice, voting rights, equal educational opportunity, criminal justice, judicial diversity, and more. Clarke will speak on the evening of Wednesday, October 25 at the Fellow-In-Residence’s Dinner and Presentation. Her talk will focus on combatting the rise of hate and white supremacy in our current political climate.

“We are so honored to host Kristen Clarke as this year’s Honorary Fellow-in-Residence. She is an extraordinarily accomplished advocate whose wide-ranging career illustrates so many possibilities for our students as they consider their own professional paths,” said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Toll Public Interest Center.

The majority of the week’s events are hosted by Penn Law students and sponsored by the school’s student groups. On Wednesday, October 25th, Kimberlé Crenshaw and Dorothy Roberts George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, will speak on “Intersectionality and the Law,” in a panel co-sponsored by the Penn Law Women’s Association, Black Law Students Association, Latinx Law Students Association, Civil Rights Law Project, and Penn Law Feminists.

The event will focus on the extent to which the current state of law accommodates or limits an intersectional approach to advocacy, how public interest lawyers can work around current limitations of the law to advocate for clients experiencing intersectional discrimination, and the extent to which progressive movements within the legal community have been shaped by the voices of the majority.

Other student groups have sponsored numerous events throughout the week, focusing on topics like movement lawyering and community self-governance. Students will also host a simulation that shines a light on the cross-cutting challenges of life with a criminal record. Because students submit numerous outstanding event proposals that exceed the capacity of the week, this year TPIC will launch “Conversations about Justice” – a series that will showcase additional proposed student events throughout the academic year.

Public Interest Week will also feature partnerships across the University, as we will host the Provost’s Diversity Lecture, this year on the topic of Immigration, as well as a film that will kick off the University symposium on “Environmental Justice and Health Disparities in the U.S.”

The week concludes on Friday, October 25 with Public Interest Student and Alumni Day. Many alumni working in public interest law travel back each year to attend this event at the Law School, which presents an opportunity for current students to connect with former students to discuss public service. The capstone of the week is an annual student and alumni dinner so that all can celebrate their collective impact, and be inspired to continue their advocacy.

“Our week is a collaborative undertaking that brings us all together to examine the most critical substantive issues of our time, and to reflect on our role as lawyers and engaged citizens who can make the world a better place. As this year’s theme contemplates, we will especially focus on the imperative that we not work in isolation, but rather, that we be creative and intentional in connecting across sector, discipline, community, and difference to more effectively promote change,” said Rivera Finkelstein.

Penn Law’s Annual Public Interest Week is coordinated by the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC), which is the hub of public service at Penn Law. TPIC oversees the Penn Law pro bono program, facilitating a wide array of pro bono and public service opportunities through which students engage in impactful service while honing critical legal skills. TPIC is also home to all of Penn Law’s public interest programming, including the Toll Public Service Corps – a group of nearly 70 students who aspire to utilize their legal education to promote social justice.

Public Interest Week runs from October 21 through October 25. For more information about the week’s events and to view the schedule, click here