Lilah Thompson spent this past summer in Washington, D.C. writing legal briefs on behalf of the United States government and studying the nation’s immigration system from the bottom up.
Thompson, a second-year law student at Temple, was able to partially subsidize her summer of public interest work at the Office of Immigration Litigation at the Department of Justice with funds she received through SPIN, or the Student Public Interest Network.
“I was moving to D.C. with, like, no money, and the SPIN honors grant really, really helped me with expenses,” said Thompson, co-president of SPIN.
SPIN is an organization at Temple’s Beasley School of Law that fundraises throughout the year to distribute grants to law students pursuing unpaid public interest work over the summer.
“It’s meant to sort of like alleviate and encourage people to go into public interest work by receiving some additional funding,” Thompson said.
SPIN distributed 24 honors grants this past summer.
Thompson said to qualify for a SPIN honors grant, students must collect a minimum number of “SPIN points” throughout the year by attending and participating in events, like special lectures and community service opportunities.
“The more ‘SPIN points’ that you have, the more money you can usually receive,” Thompson said.
Students must also work to solicit donations from alumni and professors for SPIN’s big online auction in the spring, which is where most of the organization’s fundraising money comes from.
Thompson said SPIN hopes to surpass last year’s $16,533 in honors grants and raise $20,000 to fund students’ public interest work for this upcoming summer.
SPIN’s first fundraising event this year is a fall bake sale in Klein Hall set tentatively for the end of September.
There are four levels of funding that students can receive for their summer public interest work: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. These levels correspond to the amounts of $250, $500, $750 and $1,000, respectively.
Jack Farrell, a second-year law student and SPIN’s solicitations co-chair, was also one of nine students awarded a Silver-level honors grant for his public interest work this past summer. He worked with Women Against Abuse in Philadelphia.
“I was able to work with clients,” Farrell said. “I also did a lot of legal research, so at the same time as delving more into the field I was interested in, I got to apply it with these clients.”
“If I could do that for the rest of my life I would be completely satisfied,” he added.
Along with giving law students practical experience, summer public interest work also allows students to do good for others.
“Public interest work is just something that … really does start with the heart,” Thompson said.
Daryll Hawthorne-Searight, a second year law student and co-president of SPIN, said she is not interested in pursuing public interest work in her future but hopes to do pro bono work.
“People don’t stop needing that help, people don’t stop needing that legal assistance,” Hawthorne-Searight said. “It’s just unfair to take that away when I know that I could be doing good.”
Hawthorne-Searight, who also serves as SPIN’s community service co-chair, has remained active with SPIN mainly due to the organization’s community service aspect of having held community clean-ups and collection drives.
SPIN’s first community service event this year will be a blood drive held on Oct. 20 next to Klein Hall.
“A lot people want to get that [legal] experience,” Thompson said. “But they also want to give back to their community and feel like they’re making a difference.”
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.