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Evan Smith

Clerk, Judge Rogers, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals; Skadden Fellow, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center
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    Evan Smith L'12

A Skadden fellowship to support his advocacy for their rights of coal miners.
I am from Whitesburg, KY, a small town (pop. ~2000) in the coalfields of central Appalachia. For undergrad, I studied Sociology at Oberlin College. Before enrolling at Penn Law, I served for two years as an AmeriCorps*VISTA in Whitesburg with the Appalachian Coal Country Team and started Appalachian Kentucky’s first community watershed organization, Headwaters, Inc.

After my VISTA service, I worked with an Upward Bound program for disadvantaged high school students and then moved to Philadelphia for my wife’s residency program. During our first year here, I began studying at the Fels Institute of Government at Penn and worked at The Reinvestment Fund and the City of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

Since graduation I have been clerking in Lexington, KY for Judge John M. Rogers on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. My long-term career goals are to practice in eastern Kentucky with a focus on regulatory law and representing the interests of coal miners and their families. I was lucky to receive a Skadden fellowship that will provide two years of support for me to work at Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.

I was a dual degree student with Fels and received a Master’s in Public Administration. This coursework has been helpful in understanding the administrative side of the court system and will be helpful when choosing strategic litigation and engaging in policy advocacy on behalf of coal miners and other Appalachian citizens.

Invaluable internship and pro bono experience.
My two experiential learning opportunities that had the greatest impact on my career were my judicial internship with Jerome B. Simandle, Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey and my pro bono service with the Employment Advocacy Project. Chief Judge Simandle demonstrated to me how a modest, thoughtful judiciary could further justice and ensure individual rights.

The Employment Advocacy Project gave me valuable experience in explaining bureaucratic systems to workers and serving as an advocate. It was a great thrill to win my first case by successfully arguing a hearsay issue. I was able to use my classroom knowledge in a way that made an immediate difference in my client’s life.

A bootcamp provides a boost.
The fellowship bootcamp for public-interest careers and clerkship assistance were both invaluable in starting my career. I also found the faculty to be very supportive of academic careers and believe their advice will be very helpful if I eventually decide to pursue that path.I found all of my classmates to be eager to work together on projects inside and outside of class. I stay in touch with many of my classmates and am sure that the friendships that I formed at Penn will last my entire life.

Besides the friends that I made, I fondly remember the academic side of Penn Law. I really enjoyed my classes, forming relationships with professors, my experience on Law Review, and being able to hear fascinating guest speakers.