Rutgers Law alumni, students, and faculty gathered in New York City on June 25 to support the law school’s Chen Public Service Internship Fund, which provides stipends to students who intern in the public sector, and who hope to pursue a public interest career after law school.
“At Rutgers Law, one cannot help but think about public interest,” said former Co-Dean Ronald Chen, who began the fund in 2018 by pledging his own money. “Getting started in a career in public interest is not easy. The key is the ability to get your foot in the door and get experience.”
Chen formerly served as the state’s Public Advocate and serves as a General Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, in addition to being a professor at Rutgers Law School in Newark.
Proceeds from the evening cocktail reception, organized by the Rutgers Law School - Newark Alumni Association, and hosted by Lowenstein Sandler LLP, went entirely to the Chen fund. Jennifer Fiorica Delgado ’08, a partner at Lowenstein Sandler, led her firm’s crucial support of this event. The fundraiser is a now-annual Alumni Association event, launched in 2018 and previously hosted by Debevoise & Plimpton.
Omar Rana RLAW ’19 was among the students attending the event. Thanks to a Chen Fund stipend, Rana was able to spend last summer as an intern for the Legal Aid Society of New York City in the Juvenile Rights Practice in Staten Island.
He wrote about his experience in a blog, “As an intern in juvenile rights, I represented children who had been abused and neglected and I represented children who were being criminally convicted. On a typical week, I was able to appear in court almost every single day. This helped me hone my trial advocacy skills. I also wrote motions and briefs that helped my legal writing skills. I did many client interviews and home visits that allowed me to really connect with my clients. What I like about working with children is it can be so broad. Legal fields affecting children range anywhere from family law to criminal law to international human rights. Working at LAS was a dream come true and I learned so much about advocating for underrepresented communities.”
This year’s Chen Fellow, Zuhra Aziz RLAW ‘21, is spending her summer in Atlanta working on the legal needs of people with HIV, said Chen. Chen said that his goal is to raise enough money to offer additional summer fellowships each year.
Donita Judge RLAW ’03 provided keynote remarks at the invitation of Chen, reflecting on how the fund fits into Rutgers Law School’s commitment to public interest. Judge is the Associate Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “[Public interest law] fills an important gap in what the government should be doing,” she said. Judge urged lawyers to ask themselves, “who are we lifting up?” in deciding to give deserving students a chance.
In addition, Professor Louis Raveson RLAW ’76 was honored at the event with the Newark Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award. The award is given annually to a faculty or staff member with a legacy of teaching, leadership, scholarship, and/or lawyering who has inspired students of the law school. Co-Dean David Lopez called Raveson, “a mentor, an inspiration, and a fantastic lawyer.” Last year, the Alumni Association conferred the same award on Chen.
Raveson has served as the assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate, and practiced law with the ACLU Prisoners’ Rights Project and Newark Legal Services. At Rutgers, he started the Environmental Law Clinic and worked in the Urban Legal Clinic. He’s worked against HIV discrimination, laws restricting street vendors, litigating against police brutality, freeing up Medicaid funding for abortions, and was co-counsel for Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, helping to win the Paterson boxer’s reversal of conviction.
He had this advice for lawyers and students, “Do not ask yourselves whether it’s legal or illegal, ask whether it’s right or wrong. If it’s wrong, do your best to change it. Towards the end of your career, the cases you remember is where you helped your clients (particularly) the least advantaged. Those are the cases you’ll feel best about in your life.”
Maritza Rodriguez RLAW ’11 and Brian Biglin RLAW ’11, who organized the event on behalf of the alumni association, said the association looks forward to continuing this fundraiser event with Chen, entitled ‘Leading With Distinction,’ into its third year in 2020.
Professor Lou Raveson RLAW '76, surrounded by current and former law students.