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Ms. JD Summer 2019 Public Interest Scholarship Competition is Now Open!

Ms. JD is pleased to announce that applications are now open for the 2019 Summer Public Interest Scholarship Competition

The winners of the 2019 Public Interest Scholarship Competition will each receive a small scholarship to go towards their summer living expenses as they pursue careers in public interest law.  Ms. JD is thrilled to continue our support of women pursuing public interest careers and soften the burden faced by folks who accept public interest internships, which are often unpaid.  

Eligibility

  • The Scholarship is open to all law students who currently identify as women, or who have previously lived as a woman (or girl) and now identify as non-binary.
  • Applicants should be entering their second or third year at an accredited U.S. law school as of summer 2019.
  • Applicants should be planning to work at least 35 hours per week for a minimum of 6 weeks over the summer of 2019.
  • Eligible placements include positions with a government agency, nonprofit organization, or unpaid judicial externship.
  • Applicants do not need to have a confirmed placement at the time of application, but will be asked to submit an offer letter confirming their public interest placement before funds are disbursed in May 2019.

Application

  • In 800 words or less, submit a written application responding to the prompt below.
  • Post the application essay directly to the Ms. JD blog.
  • Use your Ms. JD account to post your response to the blog.  If you do not yet have an account, register for one here: http://ms-jd.org/profile/register.
  • In addition to posting the application essay directly to the blog, please send your essay and resume as PDF attachments to publicinterest@ms-jd.org.  Please include your name and Ms. JD account ID at the top of your attached essay.  We also ask that you provide us with information regarding your anticipated summer employer and any sources of summer funding you will be receiving.
  • Applications are due by 11:59pm EST on Sunday, May 5, 2019.

Prompt

This year Ms. JD celebrated our annual conference with the theme “Speak Up!” Please describe a time in your personal or professional life that you had to speak up to advocate for yourself, and how you envision your future public interest career will facilitate speaking up on behalf of yourself or others.

(A note on framing: folks often say that they would like to “be a voice for the voiceless” in public interest work. We encourage applicants to consider that each person you will serve already has their own voice, and instead reflect on how you might uplift – rather than replace – voices of those most marginalized or whose voices are missing from mainstream conversations.)

3 Comments

Norah Cunningham

Hi Ms. JD Blog! Thank you for all the opportunities you offer for students pursuing public interest law. In response to your prompt: I decided to go to law school when I was sixteen. In virtually every classroom in my small suburban town, it was nearly impossible to go through a full class period without hearing at least one overly confident teenage boy loudly “whisper” degrading, racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic comments to their group of chuckling friends. At the time, as an unbelievably timid and passive sixteen-year-old, I thought the only thing I could do was use my platform as the Editor-in-Chief of the high school newspaper and write about it; so, I wrote an article and made a call to action – don’t be like me, don’t stay silent in the moment. However, the classmates I wrote about pushed back, claiming I was infringing on their “freedom of speech,” and apparently, they were not alone. Multiple groups of students took my article as an opportunity to spotlight how they really felt about students of color, LGBTQ+ students, immigrant students, Muslim students, and other disenfranchised communities. They harassed my friends; they sent threatening, anonymous packages to my house; they showed up to my classes wearing uniform t-shirts; they bullied my little brother in the locker room; they keyed cars parked in front of my house, etc. I realized then that being non-confrontational is a privilege. As a middle class, straight white woman, I had the privilege to be able to shrink, unaffected, when topics made me uncomfortable. I was never forced to speak up or confront various forms of injustice because they never to my knowledge threatened the health, safety, or well-being of my family, friends, or myself. I was silent, and in that inaction, I allowed the problem to continue to exist. In that moment, however, I realized that silence was no longer an option – I had to figure out how to use my privilege and my platform in more productive ways. My experience working with a legal aid organization while in undergraduate school solidified this decision. I remember watching in awe as the strong, passionate attorneys and advocates confidently challenged landlords, employers, housing authorities, school districts, and any other opposing party that they needed to fight in order to support their vulnerable, low-income clients. I watched them actively prevent homelessness, section eight voucher terminations, welfare benefit terminations, unemployment, suspensions, and expulsions. They used their legal knowledge and skills to advocate for their clients against strong, powerful forces, and the results were prevalent. Families were kept together by avoiding eviction, single mothers were able to feed their children by maintaining their benefits, farm workers recovered wages that were stolen from them, and the elderly won the ability to keep bible study in their apartment common room, all because of the efforts of dedicated lawyers and advocates. This office was offering support to and creating tangible change in the lives of those affected by the cycle of poverty, oppression, discrimination, and marginalization, and I wanted to be a part of it. All of this is to say that being awakened to things beyond myself and realizing that my position in the world comes with a sort of duty to use my privilege as my platform lead me here – a place where I am continuously learning how to become a stronger advocate so that I can be a resource to support underrepresented and marginalized or otherwise vulnerable communities. During my first year of law school, I took Immigration Law and was exposed to the insurmountable barriers, legal and otherwise, facing immigrant communities – specifically those fleeing from violence. With the knowledge of countless human rights violations occurring at our border and beyond in this very moment and the realization that we who have access to a legal education have the capacity to do something about it, I plan to use the advocacy skills I have learned and will continue to learn to support the legal needs of immigrant communities navigating our complicated, oppressive, discriminatory marginalizing immigration system. Thank you all in advance for your time and your work with Ms. JD!

ksahota

Hello Ms. J.D.! Navigating the legal profession as a brown- turbaned woman has been the most challenging situation I have found myself in, I see a need to speak up for myself every day. Not only do I find peoples’ gaze lasting for a second too long when I get off the elevator, but I also find myself asking more questions than my peers because I am the first generation from my family to attend college, nonetheless, law school. I feel browner at Golden Gate University School of Law than I ever have in my life (and I grew up with a grandma who was constantly telling me I was too dark and should stay out of the sun). I have had to explain my identity more so than I remember doing during my undergraduate degree. I partially blame the political climate. Being a woman of color during the Obama administration was completely different than being a woman of color during the Trump administration. Though the prompt of this scholarship competition is to highlight a time that I have spoken up for myself, I would also like to take this time to point out that often times when conversations of ethnicity/ race/ and identity are concerned, the bulk of the responsibility falls on people of color to carry the conversation. It is usually people who identify with marginalized groups that are bringing up these topics and that becomes exhausting. With that said, I would like to focus on the privileges I hold as an educated person of color and how I plan on using that privilege to help other folks of color. I believe my entire legal education is a way of me speaking up. Wanting to pursue a legal career in estate planning, my identity is challenged even more. From my experience, estate planning attorneys are predominantly white and male. Not only do I feel the pressure to learn the golf lingo, but I find myself following sports apps just so I can be aware of common conversation starters I observe attorneys having with one another. The subconscious default when someone looks at me is, “Oh, she must want to go into immigration.” I have found myself in three different interviews explaining why I picked estate planning versus any other field. I imagine white law students in this situation are asked about their experience rather than why they see the need to become an estate planner. I have a resume full of estate planning experience and instead of asking about that, the question is always, “why estate planning versus other fields of law?” The answer has become simple for me over the past year and a half. I am eager about this field because there are no attorneys that look like me that do estate planning. People of color equally have a need for this type of service and frankly I believe they would be more comfortable with communicating their needs with an attorney that looks like themselves rather your average Bob. In the Bay Area, we see a growing educated community of brown folk accumulating wealth; these people should have options when it comes to doing a simple Google search for estate planning attorney in their area. The idea of communicating with an attorney is already daunting enough, you think of the black suit and legal jargon. Throwing the complexity of race into the ratio creates a danger that people of color may continue not creating estate plans and dying intestate. Sure this may lead to more probate and will keep attorneys in business, but is that really fair for a person of color who worked their entire life to get themselves and their family to live comfortably. People of color should be able to enjoy the benefits of probate and tax laws just as much as white folk. I am thankful that there is a platform like Ms. J.D. where I can express my experience openly and without worry of judgment. Thank you for creating this space and this scholarship opportunity.

Jaimy L. Rothschild Rippe

Hello, Ms. JD blog. Thank you kindly for this opportunity. In response to the prompt: 
      The most significant motives driving me as a future attorney is the right to economic justice. I will serve the public’s interest by ensuring they are heard and that they are compensated and represented for their work. My chosen geographic focus is Africa. This summer I will be interning in Accra, Ghana, working on matters relative to economic justice under the Solicitor General and Minister of Justice of Ghana.
While recognizing the semi-immediate financial benefit of a venture partnership between Ghana and highly-profitable car manufacturing corporations, I do believe a discussion regarding the long-term negative implications of this deal is essential. How is this not fiscal colonialism? Being the “next India of Africa” for the purposes of sustainable development must also initiate a conversation on the potential exploitation by the powerful partner of a prospering nation in due time. Sure, a consumer market might sustain a rapid growth. However, a venture partnership has an array of implications partitioned into a several detriments to the people of Africa.
Let’s say Toyota purchases land, builds infrastructure, and begins its operations in Accra, Ghana. Such infrastructure will effectively destroy any current efforts toward environmental preservation. A predominant number of those jobs will not go to Ghanaians. Seeing an influx of Asian powerhouse corporations sets the tone for the Ghanaian youth that they cannot be leaders on their own lands when such companies employ those who look nothing like the children in the neighborhoods they enter. We cannot simply monitor the politicians; it is not a feasible mode of protection in this political climate. I am afraid the personhood of Ghanaian culture will be diminished with more of these venture partnerships where the playing field is simply unleveled.
Now, there is a fair point about the trade-offs of these deals. However, it is concerning how many investors are certain to look at Africa only for her “material goods.” Perhaps the idea of trade-offs can be malleable pertaining to various times, circumstances, and social developmental schemes. Another aspect I’d be foolish not to raise is the fact that though these means of production perhaps can be done elsewhere, Africa - and especially Ghana - is worth far more and has greater depth than a whatever is produced from this corporation once it sinks its teeth into its land. Natural resources, scientific and mathematics education far exceeding the standards of the primary schools of the United States and other predominant nations, and so forth. That same investor’s argumentative trade-offs are not so binary nor are they consistently applied. The choice for humanity and economic prosperity in one collective initiative for justice is yours. We can make it. 
I am honored to have a position with the offices of the Solicitor General and the Minister of Justice of Ghana for the betterment of not only my opportunities as a future attorney, but so my peers can experience the same. My work there as a female law student with the public’s well-being at the forefront of all I do reminds me of the bigger mission: to build a sustainable community throughout the world as one diligent cooperation. I believe in the power of all for one and one for all. With this internship, through all other work during my law school experience, and so forth into my time as a practicing attorney, I promise to fulfill any and all duties as an advocate for equitable compensatory rights, societal growth, widespread acceptance of diversity, powerful innovation, and intentional inclusion.
I stand for those who are silenced, even if they face that silence because it may feel as though it is simply the best choice they have in fear of being confronted by their silencer(s). I believe in uplifting one another and that I can do that with my juris doctorate. I stand for those who are equally – if not more – intelligent, compassionate, kind, open-minded, honest, and driven as those who are majorly-accepted in intuitions of higher education and/or strong companies. I learn, I listen, I read, I write, I speak up, I teach, I advocate and unconditionally stand for those who deserve better. I am an ally for diversity and inclusion. I sought to become a lawyer because my passions lie within the complex world of humanitarian focuses coupled with the freedom of economic prosperity for Africa.
We are more than what can be read in our casebooks. We are bigger than just ourselves or those who we see quite often. I am a promisor of hope and believe that my work is an opportunity for far more than just myself and those near. This is my covenant with the deciding committee for this grant, the offices of the Solicitor General and Minister of Justice of Ghana, my community, yours, and with Africa in all her excellence.
      Thank you.

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