A Dance to Make a Difference

April 13, 2011 - 12 AM

M. L., 1L

Yale Law is an inspiring place, full of people who are already achieving spectacular things in the world – but sometimes you want to forget all that and simply have fun with the people around you. This semester, I found one organization that encapsulates this kind of spectacular achievement and fun community, all at once: the Initiative for Public Interest Law at Yale.

The Initiative is a student-run organization that raises money to fund public interest fellowship grants. These grants are for projects that protect the legal rights and interests of inadequately represented groups. When I say student-run, I really mean student-run: the entire grant application process is managed by students, including the outreach to potential applicants, as well as the administration and decision-making on grant applications.

This process is rewarding for several reasons. Most importantly, the Initiative raises money for some timely, innovative, and ultimately impactful projects – and impactful law students/lawyers who are just starting their careers. To be part of a student group that gets to make that kind of a ripple is pretty great.

It’s also motivating to be around a group of classmates that cares so much about public interest. This caring is something that comes across in our meetings. In particular, when we review applications, it’s quite stirring to see people dissect, debate, and defend the merits and potential impact of literally each and every proposed project. To be around people that realize how much potential one public interest project can have – and people that realize the magnitude of these kinds of opportunities for grant applicants starting their careers – is humbling.

However, despite all that – and despite being public interest-minded myself – I have a confession: I actually got involved in the Initiative not for any of these things, but to help plan the annual YLS Prom. And here’s the fun and community-building aspect of the Initiative. Aside from administering our grants, the Initiative also raises the money to fund these grants. And, in order to that, we turn to the YLS community and their pocketbooks. We hold three major fundraising initiatives each year. One is a public interest book sale, wherein students donate their old textbooks. Another is an auction, wherein students and professors donate various talents and things (for example, a group of my friends and I bid on – and won – an evening of karaoke with various YLS professors and administrators).

But the third is the one into where I really threw myself: the Prom! And, having just thrown the 2011 version a couple of days ago, the entire Prom Committee and I are still glowing. To see 500 of our classmates – people who work so hard, often on real-world issues with significant implications (in court, in clinics, and other places) – dancing with friends, getting to make new ones, and overall just enjoying one another made it all worth it. In the end, the money we raised was ultimately the most important thing. But having gotten involved with the Initiative, I got a good taste of my favorite part of Yale: the very classmates around me, who care not only about the issues that I care about, but also, ultimately, each other.