MORGANTOWN – West Virginia College of Law’s Public Interest Advocates (PIA) student organization raised about $24,000 for fellowships to WVU Law students who work in public interest organizations during the summer and after graduation at its annual dinner and auction March 22, according to WVU Center for Law and Public Service director Jennifer Powell.
Powell said about 200 people attended this year’s auction, the 30th year that PIA fellowships have been awarded to WVU Law students.
Jennifer Powell | WVU Law
“The PIA exists to raise awareness about careers in public interest law and to raise money fund WVU College of Law students to work in public interest organizations,” Powell told The West Virginia Record. “This year we are sponsoring 20 summer fellows and two postgraduate fellows.”
Powell said PIA summer fellows work full time for 10 weeks at legal service organizations that serve the poor, such as Legal Aid of West Virginia. The fellows also work for organizations that address children’s advocacy, environmental law and disability rights.
“PIA benefits not only the WVU College of Law students who obtain paid summer and post graduate fellowship jobs, but it also benefits the organizations who host fellows and the clients they serve,” Powell said.
Powell said the PIA, which works in conjunction with the WV Fund for Law in the Public Interest to raise money for the student fellowships, was created in 1988 by law professor Charles DiSalvo and then-law student Carl Hostler.
“They saw a need to create a formal student organization to support students who wanted to work in public interest law and to create an organization who could help raise money to support those students,” Powell said.
According to Powell, the student fellows benefit in a number of ways from participating in the program.
“They take away a deeper appreciation of serving those in need,” she said. “They get valuable experience working in public interest law. They also have fun and get valuable experience organizing events and raising money for a great cause.”
WVU Law said in a news release that the theme for the 2018 dinner and auction fundraising event was “Back to the 80s.”
The news release said the services provided by the PIA student fellows are free for “West Virginia residents who may not be able to afford legal representation, including children, the elderly and victims of domestic violence."
WVU Law said PIA’s efforts have funded more than 440 summer fellowships and 17 postgraduate fellowships.
“Fellowships supported by PIA have helped launch hundreds of law students’ careers, and they have also provided tens of thousands of hours of free legal services to West Virginians in need,” Powell said in the WVU Law release.