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Summer in Our Nation’s Steamy Capital: Labor Law Edition

Hi readers! When Jolena Zabel ‘21 suggested that I write a quick blog-post about my summer, I didn’t hesitate: There’s no faster way to win my affection than asking me to talk about myself and, more importantly, about my commitment to public service.

This summer, I returned to my beloved Washington, D.C. where I had worked for three years after college at a think tank. My internship choices were between disability-related direct services gigs in New York City, where I was raised, and a funded fellowship at a D.C. labor law non-profit, the National Employment Law Project (NELP). I chose the latter, in large part because of NELP’s reputation as an organization that actually walks the walk. (Pro tip: If you are worried about work-life balance, go to an employment or labor law firm that practices what it preaches.) In addition, I had done a lot of labor organizing but hadn’t yet worked too extensively on labor law or policy.

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The D.C. Peggy Browning fellows at the Smithsonian (I am in the first row, third from the right with a very tentative paw raised).

Finally, I was also jazzed about the fellowship I’d gotten with the Peggy Browning Fund (PBF). It’s not just extra cash––it’s an opportunity to join a nationwide network of law students who are dedicated to strengthening unions, remedying and preventing workplace violations, and fighting for economic and racial justice more broadly. Although PBF offers placements around the country (Dominique Fenton ’21, also in LPS, was a fellow in Austin, TX), D.C. attracts a lot of fellows, so there’s a large local alumni base that likes to organize events for us. (Private docent-led labor tour of the Smithsonian! Rooftop happy hours! Networking events with labor-side law firms!) In October, all the fellows from placements across the country will head to Baltimore, MD to attend a labor law conference and a wrap-up workshop.

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Because I didn’t do OGI, I had time to make it home to hang out with my family’s dog, Daisy, who was fully enjoying her hot girl summer.

My internship also was an excellent, fulfilling experience: Although NELP doesn’t really do litigation, the work I was assigned combined rigorous legal research with strategic advocacy efforts, all with the goal of helping low-wage workers. On the side, I did research for a law professor on the constitutional rights of unwed fathers, so I got very familiar with WestLaw. I do, however, want to be a legal aid attorney, and NELP doesn’t do direct services (although it is more in the trenches than many other national policy shops). The people at NELP were very supportive of this goal and put me in touch with a lot of their contacts in civil legal services. Fortunately, I didn’t feel like I was missing out by not working with clients this summer, not just because of the NELP staff’s generosity but also because I’m enrolled in one of the law school’s many clinics this semester, working on debt collection and class actions.

The law school offers robust institutional support for people interested in public service, and I’m so glad to have a community of people here who are engaged in this line of work. And thanks to PBF, I now have a network of law students dedicated to workers’ rights that spans the whole country.


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On my way to unionize your staff.

Eliza Schultz is originally from Brooklyn, New York. Before law school, Eliza worked for three years as a researcher of disability and anti-poverty policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C. There, she also helped lead CAP’s bargaining unit, part of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union. For her 1L summer Eliza interned as a Peggy Browning Fund fellow at the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and researched constitutional paternity with a law professor.

 

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