May 23, 2013
Securing a fellowship opportunity is not an easy task. The application process is highly competitive, and applicants shine with outstanding qualifications. Securing a Peggy Browning Fellowship is no exception. Just ask any of the over 500 law students from 139 participating law schools vying for one of the nearly 70 public interest law fellowships nationwide. Or ask the Pitt Law students who have secured summer fellowship 2013 opportunities: Kimberly Bennett, Janet Checkley, and Lea Lach.
The Peggy Browning Fund provides stipends to law students who dedicate their summer to advancing the cause of workers' rights by working for labor unions, worker centers, the U.S. Department of Labor, union-side law firms and other nonprofit organizations. Fellows are distinguished students who have not only excelled in law school but who have also demonstrated their commitment to workers’ rights through their previous educational, work, volunteer and personal experiences.
Kimberly Bennett, 2L Pitt Law student and recipient of a Peggy Browning Fellowship, has been working toward this fellowship for some time and will be working at Community Justice Project in Pittsburgh, PA.
Bennett is pursuing a joint-degree for Juris Doctor and Master in International Development with a focus on Management of Non-Governmental Organizations and a Graduate Certificate in Latin American Studies. During the summer of 2012, she worked as co-director of the Legal Department at La Isla Foundation in Nicaragua, exploring the legal rights of sugarcane workers who had fallen ill with Chronic Kidney Disease where she pushed the sugarcane companies to comply with labor laws and standards. The previous year, Bennett worked as Consumer Health Coalition’s Latino Outreach Specialist, helping Spanish-speaking health service consumers navigate the health system. She is currently balancing being Section Head on JURIST.org Legal News & Research and Coordinating Editor on Panoramas while taking her classes.
“One day, I would like work for an advocacy organization and use my legal skills to help people in lesser developed countries in Latin America,” Bennett said. “I believe that workers are the foundation to every society, and unfortunately, the plight of workers is very grave in places like Latin America.”
Fellow 2L Pitt Law student Janet Checkley will spend her fellowship working at United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh, PA. A Pittsburgh native, she has spent most of her life soaking up the city’s rich labor history. After graduating from college, Checkley found herself working as a low-wage employee in the service industry to get by, and quickly became interested in workers’ rights. She decided to attend Pitt Law in order to pursue her desire to address poverty issues and equal rights, and thinks the School provided her with the right type of opportunities to enrich her educational experience.
“I feel very lucky to go to a school that takes my commitment to public interest seriously. Pitt Law has afforded me wonderful opportunities to connect with my professors, community leaders and attorneys in the field to pursue my goal of a public interest career. The wealth of support at Pitt Law has enabled me to seek out opportunities like the Peggy Browning Fellowship, and I am incredibly grateful for that,” said Checkley.
Lea Lach, a 2L student, will also spend her fellowship working at United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh, PA. Many of Lach’s family were union members within the city of Pittsburgh. She honed her research skills as an intern for the ADA Coordinator in Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, drafting amendments to the City Code that waived fees for business owners to allow them to make storefronts more accessible. As a full-time research assistant for Pitt Law professor Deborah L. Brake last summer, Lach studied workplace discrimination and retaliation against pregnant women. She hopes to stay in Pittsburgh after graduation and practice employment law on the workers’ side.
“Working at the Law School as a research assistant – specifically studying employment discrimination against pregnant women for Professor Brake – made me more aware of how far we still have to go to protect workers' rights,” Lach said. “Conversations and a final project in International Human Rights course with Professor Kovalik fueled in me an even greater passion for workers' rights.”
The Peggy Browning Fund is a not-for-profit organization established in memory of Margaret A. Browning, a prominent union-side attorney who was a Member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from 1994 until 1997. Peggy Browning Fellowships provide law students with unique, diverse and challenging work experiences fighting for social and economic justice. These experiences encourage and inspire students to pursue careers in public interest labor law.