By Andrew Cohen
The Berkeley Law Foundation (BLF) annual auction recently drew about 500 guests and raised enough money to support two Phoenix Fellowships, which encourage outstanding students of color to choose Berkeley Law and to engage in public interest legal work.
The Phoenix Fellowship offers recipients a $9,000 scholarship for their first year of law school, and funds them for summer public interest work serving underprivileged and underrepresented communities. BLF established the fellowship in 1997 after California passed Proposition 209, which banned public institutions from recruiting based on affirmative action.
Created in 1976 as the nation’s first organization of its kind, BLF is a non-profit comprised of Berkeley Law students and alumni. It strives to fund public interest summer internships for current Berkeley Law students and year-long grants for new attorneys to launch legal service initiatives, and to promote diversity in the legal profession.
“Our grants enable recipients to work on innovative and critical projects that provide desperately needed legal services to communities all around the nation,” says auction co-chair Katherine Piggott-Tooke ’11.
Past grants have funded projects such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, California Rural Legal Assistance, New Orleans Legal Assistance, and Homeless Action Center. Current Phoenix Fellows include Miguel Manriquez ’10, Samika N. Boyd ’10, Aaron Diaz Bianco ’10, Amaha Imanuel Kassa ’11, Tam Mai Ma ’11, and Yanin Senachai ’12.
Organized by Piggott-Tooke and fellow second-year students Ma, Kathryn Fernandez, Lily Harvey, Erin Liotta, and Sarah Williams, the auction was attended by students, faculty, and area attorneys at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.
“The auction is a true community event,” says Piggott-Tooke. “It was supported by generous donations from local businesses, faculty, and students.”