Public Interest Retreat featuring alumni postponed to April 9-10

The Wake Forest University School of Law will host a Public Interest Retreat, April 9-10, in the Worrell Professional Center. The event has been postponed from the weekend of Feb. 12-13 due to the inability of some panelists to travel in inclement weather.

The retreat will provide students with an opportunity to learn about public interest careers, legal positions that try to insure fairness for citizens who tend to be less represented in the justice system. Public interest organizations serve to fill the gaps where the system has failed to address the needs of average and low-income people. These career opportunities may also help students get in touch with what motivated them to come to law school, to be inspired and reinvigorated in their sense of professional self, and to refine their career goals in public service.

Professor Suzanne Reynolds, the chair of the Pro Bono Public Interest Committee, urges students to attend. “This retreat will expand students’ ideas of the kind of work that lawyers do," she said. “Among the lawyers I know who work in the public interest, I usually hear them talking about ‘finding their passion.’ Students who come to this retreat may find their passion – and learn how to fulfill it.”

The events are free but registration in Simplicity is required.

“You will hear inspiring stories from alumni speakers who have found a way to provide public service from several different sectors, enjoy small group conversations with alumni and classmates, and eat great food,” said event organizer Jennifer Hansen.

Speakers include Christine Bischoff (’04), who has been an attorney in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights since 2007, and Virginia H. Johnson (’85), who is the senior advisor for Legislative Affairs at the Defense Security Service, the agency within the U.S. Department of Defense that has the primary responsibility for protecting U.S. and foreign classified information in the hands of industry.

Johnson has served as investigative counsel for the House Ethics Committee as well as counsel for the House Armed Services Committee for the U.S. House of Representatives and has taught as an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University and University of San Diego.

"I worked for 10 years in private practice and then 10 years on Capitol Hill," Johnson said. "I was also the executive director of the American Red Cross National Headquarters. I think I can share a lot with students on how to get a job in public service."

After graduating from Wake Forest, Bischoff pursued a Master’s in Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, where she specialized in domestic policy. Bischoff then joined the NAACP National Headquarters in Baltimore, Md., to serve as the National Economic Empowerment Policy Manager. In her current role, she researches and drafts documents to implement policy on issues affecting post-secondary educational institutions.  Her work analyzes the use of race in admissions, in data collection, and in desegregation orders affecting colleges and universities.   

The retreat’s keynote address will be given by Brett Loftis (’00), executive director of the Council for Children’s Rights.

A non-profit legal and advocacy program for children, CFCR is comprised of 15 lawyers and 20 professional staff, social workers and advocates who work to protect the rights of children in areas of special education, juvenile delinquency, mental health, private custody, and abuse/neglect proceedings. CFCR uses research and community planning to drive systemic change for children in Mecklenburg County and the surrounding area.

Loftis also serves on numerous collaborative groups in the Charlotte region and around the state of North Carolina, like the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force and other systems of care, including model courts and juvenile justice committees. He serves on numerous boards, including the Covenant with N.C.’s Children, Disability Rights N.C., and Weaving Families Adoption Ministry. He received his bachelor’s degree in sociology/political science from Furman University before attending Wake Forest law school.