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Toll Fellow Valerie Snow L’20 awarded prestigious Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellowship

February 21, 2020

With the Independence Foundation fellowship, Valerie Snow L’20 will work at Philadelphia’s SeniorLAW Center, focusing on the legal rights of low-income seniors.

Upon graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Valerie Snow L’20 will spend two years at Philadelphia’s SeniorLAW Center advocating for the rights of low-income seniors, especially regarding guardianship, thanks to a prestigious Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellowship.

“Valerie is an exceptional young advocate who we are confident will become not only a compassionate and skilled public interest attorney but a future leader in this work,” said Karen C. Buck, Esq., Executive Director of the SeniorLAW Center. “We know she will make us and the Independence Foundation proud.”

Snow’s fellowship project at the SeniorLAW Center will address the legal needs of seniors facing guardianship abuse, neglect, exploitation, and other issues of access to justice. Senior poverty is an especially pressing issue in Philadelphia, the poorest large city in the country, which also claims the largest percentage of seniors among the 10 largest cities in the country. Moreover, there is a national crisis of guardianship abuse and exploitation, which devastates the lives of older people at the most vulnerable times in their lives.

The project will focus on fundamental issues of self-determination and cutting-edge issues of law, health, and due process, which are in the national, state, and local spotlight. In addition to directly advocating for the least restrictive alternative to guardianship appropriate for each client in court, Snow will also conduct outreach to seniors, caregivers, aging networks, and medical and legal communities and advocate for systemic reforms such as the right to counsel in guardianship proceedings.

With origins that date back to 1932, Independence Foundation is a private, not-for-profit philanthropic organization in Philadelphia with a mission to support organizations who provide services to underserved populations. Its Public Interest Law Fellowship provides funding for the compensation and employment benefits of young public interest lawyers as well as loan repayment assistance.

As the only non-profit organization in Pennsylvania devoted solely to the legal needs of the older population, the SeniorLAW Center has been protecting the rights of seniors for over 40 years.

At the Law School, Snow is a Toll Public Interest Fellow, which is a highly selective scholarship awarded based on demonstrated commitment to public service, strong academic record, and potential for leadership in the legal community. She is also the Production Editor for the Journal of Law and Social Change and has participated in both the Civil Practice Clinic and the Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic.

During law school summers, Snow focused on SSI work at Community Legal Services (CLS) and employment discrimination matters at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Snow’s dedication to public service reaches into her personal life as her father was diagnosed with a progressive frontotemporal dementia at age 58. Her mother is his caregiver and also served the same role with Snow’s grandmother, who developed Alzheimer’s, and her great-grandmother, who lived to 106 years old.

“I recognize that only privilege and good fortune separates my father from a senior who may be placed under guardianship, so I have great empathy and compassion for older folks and their caregivers,” Snow said. “I feel motivated to assist them in navigating a complicated system.”

Snow credits her externship with SeniorLAW Center as her entry point into focusing on issues affecting seniors and her clinic experiences at Penn Law as deepening her commitment to public interest.

“Professors Kara Finck (Child Advocacy Clinic) and Lou Rulli (Civil Practice Clinic) were especially influential in modeling the type of legal services lawyer I hope to become,” Snow said.

Originally from northern New Jersey, Snow is a summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Haverford College with a B.A. in Political Science and an interdisciplinary concentration in Peace, Justice, & Human Rights. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, baking, running, crocheting, and playing classical piano and accordion as well as trying out the restaurant scene in Philadelphia.