Third annual Public Interest Retreat set for March 2
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Office of Communications and Public Relations
December 22, 2011
The Wake Forest University School of Law’s Public Interest Initiative will host its third annual Public Interest Retreat on Friday, March 2, in the Worrell Professional Center.
The program will begin at noon with the keynote address in Room 1312 by Francisco M. Negron Jr. He is the associate executive director and general counsel of the National School Boards Association and a leading national advocate for public schools, directing the association’s nationally recognized Legal Advocacy Program. The program files more amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court and in federal and state appellate courts across the country each year than all national education associations combined. Negron also leads the 3,000-member Council of School Attorneys, the national network of lawyers representing K-12 public schools.
After a luncheon for members of the Public Interest Initiative, there will be several breakout sessions throughout the afternoon with panelists comprised of practicing public interest attorneys, some of whom are listed below.
“It is going to be quite a day,” said Professor Beth Hopkins, Wake Forest School of Law director of outreach. “It’s a chance for our students to see what opportunities are available in public interest law and why these attorneys love what they do.”
Hopkins said that people often think that public interest jobs are limited to working at the district attorney’s office or as a public defender, but those who attend the retreat will realize that the options are endless. She said public interest careers also include working for environmental agencies and youth advocacy centers, representing parents whose children have been suspended from schools, handling prison rights issues and providing direction on immigration matters.
“Our students are turning to the public sector more often upon graduation since the opportunities in private corporations are not as abundant,” she explained. “But I think as they see the dedication of those who spend their time serving the public, they will realize that the outcome can be very rewarding.”
Amanda Thompson, retreat director for the Public Interest Initiative, said she is excited to be in charge of this year’s program because she remembers what it was like to attend the retreat her first year. She said she thought she was one of the few who wanted to pursue a public interest career, but she soon realized that it was a viable option.
“This retreat started my first year at Wake Forest, and I am very glad I decided to attend,” Thompson said. “It was so nice to hear from people who are making a livelihood in this area because it showed me that it can be the right step after graduation.
“I would encourage anyone who has an interest in public service to come and take part in the retreat because it will give you the chance to see all that public interest careers have to offer and to network with practicing attorneys.”
Negron received his juris doctorate from the Florida State University College of Law and holds a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of West Florida. He is a member of the Bars of the United States Supreme Court, the District of Columbia, Florida, and all federal Circuit Courts of Appeals.
Negron, who regularly serves as a spokesperson for public schools, said he is looking forward to his visit to Wake Forest. He wants the students to better understand the role of a school lawyer and how working for a non-profit organization mirrors the work of private corporations. He said he handles many of the same business transactions that he would as a corporate attorney but also has the reward of helping students.
“I want these students to know that areas that many seem out of reach can provide them with a rewarding career,” Negron said. “There is a way to melt the two together to not only look at current issues but also to represent the well-being of a particular agency.”
The Public Interest Retreat is free, and the keynote address will be open to the public. Reservations for the luncheon are required. For more information or to participate in this year’s program, email Amanda Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the break out sessions attorneys are divided by practice area (criminal law, government agencies, civil rights law, etc). The break out sessions allow attending students to ask questions and hear how these attorneys got to where they are. The end of the retreat is capped off with a reception where attending students can mingle and talk more with the participating lawyers.
Below is a sampling of attending attorneys:
- Paul Meyer, Chief Legislative Counsel, N.C. League of Municipalities
- Rufus Allen, Assistant Attorney General with the Environmental Division of the N.C. Department of Justice
- Joal Broun, Lobbying Compliance Division Director, N.C. Department of the Secretary of State
- Ann Wall, General Counsel, N.C. Secretary of State
- Aisha Rahman, Executive Director, KARAMAH (Muslim Women Human Rights Organization)
- Mike Selmi, Civil Rights litigator
- David A. Singleton, Executive Director of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center
- Bert Gall, Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice
- Susan Noe, Attorney, Native American Rights Fund
- Jasper Brown, Field Attorney, National Labor Relations Board
- Erin Comerford, AUSA
- Greg Davis, Federal PD
- Rebecca Wood, Assistant Public Defender, Forsyth County PD’s office
- David Sipprell, Violent Crimes Prosecutor, General Felonies Supervisor, Forsyth County DA’s Office
- Gene Fishel, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Virginia’s Attorney General’s Office