From active duty in the Army to the trenches of government inside the Beltway, from protecting the future of the environment to ensuring a bright future for children — jobs in public interest law can take young attorneys in many different directions. For four UF Law students, those far-ranging opportunities were brought within reach by public interest fellowships.
UF Law boasts three new public interest fellowship options for students. The Bill McBride Public Interest Practice Fellowship, the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship and the E. Thom Rumberger Everglades Foundation Fellowship help fund public interest-related internships and externships, which can be expensive because they are often unpaid and require summertime relocation.
The fellowships eliminate those worries, giving students access to valuable hands-on work experience with agencies across the country. Each fellow received $5,000 to cover the costs associated with their summer opportunities.
The inaugural Rumberger fellow, who will receive up to $5,000 per year, had not yet been selected at press time, but two McBride and two Stevens fellows completed their work over the summer. Their paths are varied, but all have their sights set on careers in the public interest.
Marissa Fallica (3L)
The McBride Fellowship offered Fallica an opportunity to follow her dream of working in the area of civil rights law. She externed in Atlanta at the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, which handles discrimination cases in educational settings.
Fallica spent a large part of the summer assisting in a compliance review of a school district by investigating the district for possible race discrimination violations in its discipline practices. The chief regional attorney, Deborah Floyd, was Fallica’s mentor throughout the fellowship. Fallica said Floyd’s innovative and thorough approach to cases served as an inspiration for her own legal development.
“It was a great opportunity to learn from her,” Fallica said. “The mentoring of many of the attorneys I worked with there reinforced my commitment to do public interest work in the future.”
Patrick Todd (2L)
Looking to expand his horizons in environmental law, Todd got the opportunity to travel across the country and work with veteran attorneys, thanks to the McBride Fellowship.
Todd split his summer between Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., making the most of his time in order to get experience at both the state and federal levels. He spent the first half of the fellowship at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida and went to the Department of Justice Environmental Torts Branch for the second half. Todd said the fellowship provided him with the chance to explore public interest law without dealing with the stressful details of arranging housing and covering living expenses.
“If it wasn’t for the help, I don’t know how I would have managed,” Todd said.
Todd said he received constructive mentoring and advice from seasoned trial attorneys, which made a lasting impact on his development as a lawyer.
Joshua Izaak (3L)
Stevens fellow Joshua Izaak, whose interests lie in politics, wanted to work on voting rights issues in the nation’s capital. His wish was granted with a position in the Voter Protection Department with the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C. Izaak analyzed legislation from individual states to determine how laws were restricting voters from the opportunity to vote.
“I got great first-hand experience in seeing how our nation’s voting laws function in practical terms and how those laws can both expand and restrict a person’s access to the polls,” Izaak said.
Izaak’s drive to break into politics was reinforced by the experience. He said he hopes to hold public office in the near future, beginning with a campaign for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2014.
Kaylee Chabarek (3L)
Kaylee Chabarek said the Stevens Fellowship provided her with a stepping stone toward working in military law.
She said the fellowship opened avenues for her that would otherwise have been impassable because of the costs associated with pursuing her goal of entering the Army Judge Advocate General Corps.
“Without the fellowship funds, I don’t know if I would have been able to do the internship,” Chabarek said.
Chabarek moved to Texas during the summer to extern with the JAG Trial Defense Service in Fort Hood. Because the fellowship allowed her to live in Fort Hood, Chabarek said, she was able to experience the role of an Army defense counsel. The opportunity, in turn, helped her realize she was interested in continuing to pursue a JAG career.
“The internship definitely solidified my future plans,” Chabarek said.