Law School Celebrates Inaugural Public Service Fellows, Prepares for 2020

Clockwise from top left: Nick Linn, Badria Mryyan, Marion Humphrey, Derick Dillard, Clinton Summers, Lexi Acello, Mitchell Dowden and Maria Baez de Hicks
Russell Cothren

Clockwise from top left: Nick Linn, Badria Mryyan, Marion Humphrey, Derick Dillard, Clinton Summers, Lexi Acello, Mitchell Dowden and Maria Baez de Hicks

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The first group of Summer Public Service Fellows have completed their projects and are helping to recruit fellow students for the summer of 2020.

Last spring, the University of Arkansas School of Law launched its Summer Public Service Fellowship Program, which provides paid public service fellowships to promising law students interested in public service careers. 

"The 2019 Fellows had very meaningful experiences and are motivated to share their stories and encourage others to apply," said Annie Smith, associate professor of law and director of the school's pro bono and community engagement program. "They will be amazing ambassadors as we move into the program's second year."

The program, which is part of the law school's broader effort to fulfill the university's land-grant mission, is designed for first- and second-year law students with an interest in, and demonstrated commitment to, public service. Law students interested in applying for summer 2020 fellowships will be able to learn more during a drop-in open house 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in the Six Pioneers Room at the law school. 


Lexi Acello

Lexi Acello worked directly with low-income clients to help them gain access to quality civil legal services at the Center for Arkansas Legal Services in Fort Smith.

"This position taught me that there are no 'small' areas of law," she said. Helping someone maintain their social security benefits or keep their home when they separate from an abusive partner may not be as 'flashy' as other types of law, but they are no less important. I found immense value in helping people with the 'small' things because they are big things to the clients. That was a crucial perspective for me to gain."

Maria Baez de Hicks

Maria Baez de Hicks helped Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families in Springdale study the barriers to access for those attempting to use government programs intended to address food insecurity.

"The Summer Public Service Fellowship Program was vital in providing the opportunity for hands-on experience in work that I want to base my future career on," she said. "This opportunity helped me to not only see myself in this role, but also begin to build a professional network that will allow me to be successful in the future."

Derick Dillard 

Derick Dillard attended hearings and client interviews and helped with writing and research on the proper application of U.S. Sentencing Guidelines as part of his work for the Federal Public Defender's Office in Fayetteville. 

"Throughout the summer, I had a growing desire to further prepare myself for a career in public service," he said. "The fellowship program can help give a better perspective of what a career in a particular public service field of interest might look like. This is extremely valuable in efficiently launching into a public service legal career, while building lifelong relationships at the same time."

Mitchell Dowden 

Mitchell Dowden served as the Tyson Summer Public Service Fellow while working at the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic in Boston, where he assisted on projects dealing with hemp, sugar, USDA grass-fed standards, bill tracking and international date labeling.

"The only reason I had this opportunity was due to the Summer Public Service Fellowship Program," he said. "It's an opportunity I would take again and again. I would recommend anyone else take the chance to explore options outside of a traditional law firm route."

Marion Humphrey 

Marion Humphrey worked at the Center for Youth Justice in Washington, D.C., as the Squire Patton Boggs Foundation Public Policy Fellow, where he tracked legislation and case law regarding the transfer and sentencing of youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system and contributed to a joint policy brief on Latinx youth in the adult criminal justice system.

Participating in the Summer Public Service Fellowship program increased his commitment to "a role that has some policy focus. I think it's very important to work towards removing injustice from the system fully, and emphasis toward policy is a way to do that," he said. "Before, I was not as committed to make that a part of my work, but I think it's truly important to meet both litigation and legal practitioner work with policy activism and advocacy."

Nick Linn

Nick Linn, the Raffaelli-Lineberger Public Service Fellow, assisted trial attorneys with determining whether a variety of individual actions violated federal civil rights statutes while working at the U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section in Washington, D.C.

"I found that some of the very best people work in public service," he said. "They believe in the mission and value the people they work with."

"The Summer Public Service Fellowship is one of the best programs you can participate in during law school because it allows you to experience what it's like to work in public service before choosing a career path. Pro bono and public interest work are fundamental to the legal profession because much of the public cannot access representation. This fellowship gives you the opportunity to serve as an advocate for that great majority."

Badria Mryyan

Badria Mryyan helped create, research, edit and share resources on human trafficking, the rights of undocumented immigrants and public policy changes affecting immigrant families for the YMCA in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"For me, this experience reaffirmed my desire to work in a nonprofit or legal aid setting because those settings allow the most vulnerable people to get the help they need," she said.

"This is an opportunity to turn a thought or a 'dabbling' in social justice into the potential for a long-lasting, rewarding career path with no loss or financial burden placed on the student. The public service fellowship was a priceless experience for me in terms of exposure to an area where humanity meets the law."

Clinton Summers

Clinton Summers observed hearings, did research and wrote two opinions, one civil and one criminal, for U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush in Springfield, Missouri. 

"Working for a federal judge my first summer of law school was an amazing experience, and I am so grateful to have received the fellowship," Summers said. "I couldn't have paid my expenses without it, and I wouldn't want to trade the internship for anything!"


Darinda Sharp, director of communications
School of Law


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