Pro Bono, Student Posts

Do UVA Law’s Alternative Spring Break, Just Not for the Reason I Did

I will admit it. I was not excited for UVA Law’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB). I had signed up for less than altruistic reasons. Namely, I had registered because it seemed like an efficient way to knock out the forty hours of pro bono needed to receive a Public Interest Law Association grant for the summer. I have admittedly niche public interest law goals; I want to work in Jewish communal advocacy, and not surprisingly all the ASBs were hosted at more traditional public interest locations (public defense, legal aid, and the like). Thus, while most of the ASBs were in other cities, I decided to work at the location closest to my apartment, the Legal Aid Justice Center, which is a ten-minute walk away.

The Sunday before I was to report to the LAJC I was full of dread. I envisioned a week of doing mindless, low-level work, which seemed even more mind-numbing after having worked on my law journal tryout all weekend. I inwardly contemplated bailing on the entire ASB. Nevertheless, I showed up. I was assigned to be a floater and assist any LAJC attorney who needed help, regardless of their department. I mentally girded for a week of monotonous grunt work to be thrown my way.

But just the opposite happened. Immediately I was given an interesting topic of researching and writing a memo on a new Housing and Urban Development Department regulation and how its negative impacts could be mitigated by Charlottesville’s local housing authority. I got so swept up in that assignment, which included a site visit to one of Charlottesville’s public housing facilities, that it was Tuesday before I knew it. Next, I reviewed the court filings for a fair housing case that was set for oral arguments in the Fourth Circuit. I sat in on a moot oral argument session about fair housing law and about oral advocacy best practices more generally. By Wednesday, I was working on an Eighth Amendment case concerning health care conditions at a federal women’s prison. I helped our attorneys prepare for the upcoming trial by researching and writing multiple memos regarding expert testimony.

I finished the last memo and sent it off to the supervising attorney. I looked at my watch and realized that it was Friday half past 5pm. The week that I was dreading ended up being anything but a drag. In addition to learning about unfamiliar areas of substantive law, I gained practical research, writing, and oral advocacy skills that will help me in my job this summer. While still grateful for the forty-hours of pro bono, I would recommend doing ASB irrespective of that perk. Even though I may not need the hours, I am already thinking about signing up for another ASB next year. If I do, I will undoubtedly go into the week with a better attitude than I did this year!

Read more about other students’ Alternative Spring Break experiences here.

Julian Yigal Kritz, a 1L from Raleigh, North Carolina graduated from Augsburg University in Minneapolis. Before coming to UVA, he worked for a boutique business law firm and served on the board of directors for multiple Jewish nonprofit agencies. He will be spending his 1L summer at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law. He plans to pursue his career in Jewish communal advocacy.

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