HLS is first law school to offer seed grants for public interest ventures
Sixteen public service visionaries and social entrepreneurs from Harvard Law School have been selected as the inaugural recipients of grants from the Public Service Venture Fund, a unique program which will award up to $1 million each year to help graduating Harvard Law students and recent graduates obtain their ideal jobs in public service—even if those jobs don’t yet exist.
A first-of-its-kind program at a law school, the Public Service Venture Fund invites law students and recent alumni to identify unmet legal needs and develop new initiatives to meet them. Supporting “seed grants” for startup public interest ventures, and offering salary support for fellows undertaking at existing organizations, the Venture Fund spearheads social entrepreneurship and a rigorous selection process advised by experienced entrepreneurs.
“As we inaugurate the Public Service Venture Fund, we are grateful for the energy and innovative thinking of students, alumni, faculty and expert advisers who participated in workshops, courses and advising sessions on social enterprise possibilities for addressing vital public issues,” said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. “I salute the talents, risk-taking, and devotion to others that characterize each recipient of the initial grants and fellowships. We are immensely indebted to all the donors whose vision saw the need to realize the dreams of students who want to serve people in need. Special recognition should be given to Irving and Carol Yoskowitz and Karl and Joan Zeisler for their most generous support to this inaugural year of the fund.”
The Public Service Venture Fund started taking shape about two years ago at a time when the economy was still in decline. While many HLS students successfully landed external fellowships such as those offered by the Skadden Foundation and Equal Justice Works, the increasing number of students seeking public interest work highlighted a growing demand for more funding options, said Alexa Shabecoff, assistant dean for public service and director of the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising, who is directing the fund. At the same time, the economic downturn led to budget cuts in public interest organizations, as well as a significant rise in the need for legal services.
The fund, administered by the law school’s Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising, comes with a host of related services for applicants, especially those applying for seed grants. OPIA has enlisted alumni and others to assist applicants with business advice and with developing the business plan and budget required to apply for a seed grant, and also to help fellows incorporate their startups.
Thirteen graduating students and three alumni were chosen as this year’s inaugural Public Service Venture Fund fellows based on their vision for how to approach a public service problem.
Seed Grant Recipients
Alec Karakatsanis ’08 and Phil Telfeyan ’08
Alec Karakatsanis and Phil Telfeyan will found Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit civil rights law firm dedicated to challenging the role of the profit motive in areas related to the criminal justice system. Graduates of the Harvard Law School Class of 2008, they met during a moot court competition in their 1L year. Karakatsanis is presently an attorney in the Special Litigation Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where he litigates complex criminal law and civil rights cases in federal and D.C. trial and appellate courts. Telfeyan received a Heyman Fellowship for service in the federal government and has worked since 2009 in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, where he is currently a trial attorney. During his time in the Civil Rights Division, Telfeyan has investigated and litigated cases of employment discrimination against immigrant workers.
David Wertime ’07
In December 2011, along with two other HLS alumni, David Wertime co-founded Tea Leaf Nation, a news site that gauges Chinese citizen sentiment by analyzing the Chinese Internet. More than 70 volunteer writers have contributed to the organization, which is a partner site to TheAtlantic.com and the Asia Society’s ChinaFile.com. Wertime is also a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society, a correspondent for The Atlantic and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
Ona Balkus J.D./M.P.H. ’13
As a clinical fellow at the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, Ona Balkus will focus her fellowship on law and policy projects aimed at increasing the availability of healthy foods and access to health care for low-income populations.
Nicolette Boehland ’13
Nicolette Boehland will document civilian experiences in armed conflict as a staff attorney at the Center for Civilians in Conflict, conducting research in Syria, Somalia and the Philippines.
Genevieve Bonadies ’13
Genevieve Bonadies will develop school-legal partnerships in Oakland, Calif., public schools as a staff member at Centro Legal de la Raza.
Andrew Crocker ’13
Andrew Crocker will work as a staff attorney on the civil liberties docket at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international digital rights group.
Frances Dales ’13
Frances Dales will work in partnership with the Julian Cho Society conducting foundational research to launch a community-organizing program in southern Belize on the connection between indigenous land rights and food security.
Shelmun Dashan ’13
Shelmun Dashan will work as a fellow in the consumer practice group at Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, the principal provider of free legal services to low-income residents in the Chicago area.
Stephanie Davidson ’13
Stephanie Davidson will work at Urban Justice Center’s Domestic Violence Project, where she will provide direct civil legal services to low-income survivors of domestic violence who are living with disabilities.
Jason Gelbort J.D./M.A.L.D. ’13
Jason Gelbort will work at the Public International Law & Policy Group, in Libya and Kosovo.
Lillian Langford J.D./M.P.P. ’13
Lillian Langford will work in the Law Program of the Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan.
Elian Maritz ’13
Elian Maritz will work at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, in Washington, D.C., focusing on three specific projects: pro bono legal services, the anti-warehousing campaign and protecting unaccompanied migrant children.
Elsa Meany ’13
Elsa Meany will work at Women’s Link Worldwide in Bogotá, Colombia, where she will pursue innovative gender rights advocacy.
Summer Moore-Estes ’13
Summer Moore-Estes will work as a staff attorney, focusing on immigration and asylum law, in a joint collaboration between the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and Greater Boston Legal Services.
Lena Silver ’13
Lena Silver will serve as a staff attorney at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago.