Summer 2006 Internships

Ten Washington University School of Law students will be working with public interest law agencies and non-governmental organizations in Africa this summer through the school’s Africa Public Interest Law and Conflict Resolution Project. Since the project’s inception four years ago, more than 25 students have spent their summers working in Africa, primarily in South Africa, providing legal aid to low-income people.

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Working in South Africa is attractive to law students because the country is at the forefront of  “transitional justice,” an emerging legal field, says Professor Karen Tokarz, who directs the School of Law’s Clinical Education and Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs. Tokarz has coordinated summer placements for students in South Africa since 2002.

“Following a horrific period of apartheid, conflict and repressive rule, South Africans engaged in a unique truth and reconciliation commission,” Tokarz notes. “The country now is in the process of building a new democratic society, which is both enlightening and inspiring for our students.”

First-year law students Eleanor Forbes, Nilesh Naik, and Wesley Schooler will work this summer at the Legal Aid Board Justice Center in Durban. The host of previous Washington University summer interns, the Legal Aid Board of South Africa provides free legal assistance on civil and criminal matters to indigent clients. This summer, law students will engage in client counseling, legal research and writing, and trial preparation and observation.

Joint JD/MBA student Calvin Hwang and first-year law student Lilia Tyrell will work for the Durban Lesbian and Gay Community Health Centre. The center offers legal services, social services, and training to “enable individuals to claim their rights to equality, dignity, and freedom” under South Africa’s new constitution. Similar to previous Washington University interns, Hwang and Tyrell will assist center staff with client advocacy, community education, and legal representation – particularly in the area of HIV-AIDS.

For the first time this summer, law students interning in South Africa also will participate in a two-week course in South African constitutional law, offered by the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law on the campus of the University of Western Cape in Cape Town.

Also new in summer 2006, the Africa Public Interest Law and Conflict Resolution Project will expand into Ghana, thanks to new funding and partnerships. Professors Tokarz and Kimberly Norwood have developed placements for students with public interest law organizations in Accra, Ghana. The placements were facilitated through the assistance of Sena Dei-Tutu, a Ghanaian lawyer and faculty member at the University of Ghana Business Department, who will receive her J.S.D. from Washington University in May 2006. Tokarz and Dei-Tutu visited Accra last December to meet with lawyers and organizations.

First-year law students Barbara Burdette, Tracy Franklin, and Jessica Mills and joint-degree law and social work student Naomi Warren will work at the Legal Resource Centre in Accra. The center collaborates with communities to ensure human rights, social progress, and economic development, especially in the areas of civil liberties, health, employment, education, and housing. The students will assist with client counseling, client advocacy, community education, and dispute resolution.

Second-year law student Rebekah Henn will intern in Accra with the International Federation of Women Lawyers’ Ghana Legal Aid Services. The federation provides legal advice and representation in court for indigent women and children, mediation of family and estate disputes, legal literacy programs directed primarily at women and children, and legislative advocacy on issues related to the status of women and children.

Various funding sources make summer externships possible for law students. Through the Public Interest Summer Stipend fund, the law school provides almost $300,000 each summer for more than 100 students, who commit to working in public interest projects in the United States and abroad. Additionally, the School’s Whitney R. Harris Institute for Global Legal Studies provides travel awards for law students doing public interest work in Africa and other overseas locations.

New funding partners are helping to make the project’s expansion possible this year. Washington University’s Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service is providing fellowships for the 10 law students working in South Africa and Ghana. The African and African American Studies program in Arts & Sciences is providing a fellowship for Ghana, and the U.S. Arbitration & Mediation Service-Midwest in St. Louis is funding stipends for students to pursue public interest work in conflict resolution in Ghana. In addition, the law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP awarded scholarships to enable one JD/MSW student to pursue public interest work in Ghana and another law student to intern in the Republic of Georgia this summer.

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