When the latest Skadden Fellowship recipients were announced on Nov. 23, two UCLA School of Law students and one recent graduate learned that their careers as public interest lawyers had received a tremendous boost.
“The Skadden is an incredible opportunity because it allows lawyers to launch their careers doing the work they love the most, essentially designing their dream job,” says Emma Hulse ’20, who was one of the law school’s three honorees for 2022. “It is a unique opportunity to pilot experimental legal projects to work in partnership with communities. UCLA Law does an exceptional job of training public interest lawyers who have both the critical lens and the creativity to be effective community lawyers and to collaborate with movement leaders.”
Like many UCLA Law students, Hulse, Grace Carson ’22, and Kavya Parthiban ’22 came to law school with their sights set on crafting careers as impactful lawyers who are committed to promoting the public interest. To accomplish that goal, all three enrolled in the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy and engaged in courses and activities with faculty mentors and other colleagues who put service at the center of their teaching and practice.
The students’ hard work paid off, and, with two-year fellowships that are among the nation’s most prestigious opportunities in public interest lawyering, they are now prepared to make a difference in a variety of communities around the country.
“I knew I wanted to use the law to support families like the families I worked with before law school, but I didn’t know in what capacity,” says Parthiban, whose fellowship will take her to the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, California. Her work will include advocacy for disabled parents who risk having their children removed from their care and who face problems that are compounded due to systemic racism.
Parthiban says that, during her second year of law school, she “wanted to work with parents with disabilities who are impacted by the Bay Area’s dependency system. But I found no organizations currently dedicating roles to focus on that population. So I decided to create my project to pursue this work and provide more support for disabled parents in the Bay Area.” She developed her plan with guidance from members of UCLA Law’s distinguished public interest faculty and alumni who are former Skadden Fellowship recipients.
UCLA Law now ranks among the top four law schools in the country with the most graduates who have become Skadden Fellows, behind only Harvard, Yale, and NYU, and just ahead of Stanford. The law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom launched the fellowship program in 1988 and, through it, has elevated the careers of 934 total fellows.
Carson is now among them, and she also credits many people in the law school community for their support in her project development and Skadden application. “UCLA Law has been essential in helping me to receive this fellowship and to work toward achieving my vision,” she says. As one of six children of a single mother and a father who has been incarcerated for most of her life, Carson grew up in a low-income household and found inspiration to become the first member of her family to graduate from college. “What I remember most growing up were the moments in which my Black Indigenous mother was racially profiled and brutalized by police. I promised myself that although I could not protect my parents in those moments, I would grow up to find the resources to make conditions better for them and other community members.”
Carson’s work as a Skadden Fellow, therefore, will be with “the Tribal Law and Policy Institute in West Hollywood, helping tribes to create and execute restorative justice systems focused on rehabilitating people who use drugs and on healing the harm they have caused within their community. These systems will be an alternative to punishment and incarceration and used as a tool to effectively address harm that takes place on reservations.”
Furthering her own longtime drive to make a difference, Hulse will put her experience to work in New York, where she moved after graduating in 2020. There, she has clerked for Judge Rowan D. Wilson of the New York Court of Appeals and Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn ’01, a fellow UCLA Law alum, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
After that clerkship, she will work as a Skadden Fellow at the New York Civil Liberties Union, serving students of color and bilingual students in special education to ensure that they receive the necessary services to which they are entitled.
“My project reflects my educational foundation at UCLA Law, particularly my experiences working with Critical Race Studies and public interest faculty. While the initial idea came out of my work as an organizer before law school, the opportunities I had as a student at UCLA [including with former law school dean Rachel Moran] allowed me to conduct the research that is the basis for the project,” she says.
“Most importantly, UCLA has an amazing community of engaged, thoughtful students who I learned so much from, and whom I am grateful to know. I’m especially excited to share this honor with other Bruins!”