Passion for public interest law drives Summer Fellows

by Gabrielle Davis

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Hala Sandridge of Fowler White Boggs, left, was recognized at the Foundation’s 2011 annual dinner for her firm’s gift of support for the Legal Aid Summer Fellowship of Jhenerr Hines, right, who is working at Bay Area Legal Services this summer.

Stetson University law student Jhenerr Hines’ desire to help the disadvantaged started at home.

“I grew up in a very poor home, and most of the people I grew up with are dead or in jail,” said Hines, a native of Montego Bay, Jamaica. “I’m very blessed, and I feel the need to reach out and give back.”

Hines, along with 20 other law students from Florida as well as out-of-state law schools, got a chance to fulfill that need while participating in The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2011 Legal Aid Summer Fellowship program.
Established in 1995, the 11-week summer fellowship, from May to August, allows students to serve as fellows working on a variety of cases and projects at 21 Foundation-supported legal aid programs throughout the state.

To prepare the law students for their fellowships, the Foundation sponsored a workshop May 19-20 in Orlando, where they learned about relevant practice areas including family law, foster care, housing, landlord/tenant issues, and civil and immigration rights.
Knowing the importance of providing legal assistance to the poor, Tampa law firm Fowler White Boggs sponsored Hines’ fellowship at Bay Area Legal Services, enabling the Foundation to place 21 fellows, rather than the 20 that were originally funded.

“By sponsoring a 2011 Summer Fellow, our firm is able to help our legal aid program provide additional legal assistance to those who cannot afford it,” said Hala Sandridge, a shareholder with Fowler White Boggs who joined the Foundation’s board July 1.

“In turn, a law student with a passion for public interest will be afforded the opportunity to use her legal skills.”

An added benefit of the summer fellowship program is that fellows serve as “ambassadors” for public interest law, sharing their experiences with other law students, thereby “helping us recruit for other intern projects or for employees,” said Bay Area Legal Services Executive Director Dick Woltmann.

Many fellows have gone on to work in public interest law, such as 2002 summer fellow Kristen Lentz, now the managing attorney for Florida Institutional Legal Services. Lentz said her summer fellowship inspired her career choice.

“For me it confirmed the importance of working on behalf of marginalized and poor populations and it made me want to continue to work in legal services, “Lentz said. “And I have for eight years now.”

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Sponsorships are $5,500 for first-year law students and $7,000 for second-year students. If you or your firm is interested in sponsoring a summer fellow, please contact Florida Bar Foundation Executive Director Jane Curran at jcurran@flabarfndn.org or (800) 541-2195.

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