Working in the Public Interest is a student-run conference at the UGA School of Law. Every spring public interest law students bring practitioners from around the world to Athens, Georgia to speak about pressing issues of the day in public interest law. The purpose of WIPI is to create a forum where public interest law students can bring the issues that matter to them to the table. Furthermore, organizers and attendees of the conference are given great networking opportunities with professionals in various fields of public interest law. 

Entirely student organized, WIPI seeks to bring together eminent practitioners in their respective fields, students, and faculty to discuss practical approaches to lawyering that promote social justice and human rights for all. The Conference seeks to highlight dynamic, creative ways to combat social injustice through the vehicle of the law. WIPI is committed to institutionalizing a public interest law conference in the Southeast. We feel the social history, political climate, and economic conditions of the Southeast are unique, and we hope that by providing a forum to address persistent social injustices we may get one step closer to resolving some of the major public interest law issues in the Southeast.

Email us at wipiconference@gmail.com.


Advisor:  Professor Alexander W. Scherr

Executice Director Shaniqua Singleton  
Deputy Director Kate Howard  
Panels Co-Director(s) Anna Fowler  
Public Relations Co-Director(s) Lesley O'Neill  
  Hannah Allen  


Conference Information

The 10th Annual Working in the Public Interest Conference (WIPI) will bring together practitioners, students and faculty to discuss equal treatment under the law, improved access to legal representation for the currently underrepresented and practical approaches to public interest lawyering.

Saturday, February 28, 2015
Larry Walker Room, Fourth Floor of Rusk Hall, University of Georgia School of Law, Athens, Georgia
Continuing Legal Education Credits (CLE) Available
5 CLE credit hours are available if you attend the entire Conference. Each panel is worth .5 hour Ethics and .5 hour Professionalism CLE. In addition, Professor Rapping's presentation is worth 1 hour in the Ethics category. To receive CLE credits you must register for the entire Conference. If you attend the entire conference you will receive 5 hours of credit (3 Ethics and 2 Professionalism).




2015 Conference Schedule

Saturday, February 28, 2015
Larry Walker Room, Fourth Floor of Rusk Hall, University of Georgia School of Law, Athens, Georgia

9:00 - 9:30                  Registration

9:30 - 10:40    Human Trafficking: Georgia’s Response to an International Problem

Sam Olens; Georgia Attorney General 
Martina Vandenberg; President and Founder of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center
Rosa De Kelly, Catholic Charities, Atlanta, Board of Immigration Appeals Accredited Legal Representative
Mark Northcutt; Wellspring Living service provider
Associate Dean Diane Marie Amann; Associate Dean for International Programs and Strategic Initiatives & Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law 

10:50 - 12:00     Current Issues and Pro Bono Opportunities in Immigration Law: Asylum, Due Process, and Enforcement Concerns

The Honorable Dana Leigh Marks; President, National Association of Immigration Judges
Azadeh Shahshahani; Director, National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia
Joseph H. Rosen; Adjunct Professor at Atlanta's John Marshall Law School; Joseph H. Rosen Immigration Law Group, P.C.
Professor Jason Cade; Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law

12:00 - 1:00       Lunch

1:00 - 2:10         Prisoners of Debt: Costs and Consequences of Civil Penalties and Routine Criminal Procedures

The Honorable Charles Auslander; State Court of Athens-Clarke County
Sarah Geraghty; Senior Attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights
Edward Brumby; Chief Assistant Public Defender for the West Judicial Circuit Public Defender Office
Professor Russell Gabriel; Director, Criminal Defense Clinic at the University of Georgia School of Law 

2:20 - 3:30       Communities in Conflict with Police: How to Facilitate Dispute Resolution and Mediate Causes of Conflict 

Mildred I. Duprey de Robles; Conciliator Specialist for the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service
Samuel Lee Reid; Executive Director of the Atlanta Citizen Review Board
Dr. David Hooker; Public Service Associate, Community Engagement Strategies, University of Georgia Fanning Institute
Professor Julian A. Cook; J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law 

3:40 - 4:30          Keynote Speaker:  Jonathan Rapping, President and Founder of Gideon’s Promise

Panel Descriptions

Current Issues and Pro Bono Opportunities in Immigration Law: Asylum, Due Process, and Enforcement Concerns

Immigration courts must handle a large number of cases, including asylum cases, with extremely limited resources.  Adequate legal representation is not always available, giving rise to concerns about the integrity of the deportation process and the treatment of persons subject to U.S. immigration law.  This panel will discuss the nature of the due process problems, the practical consequences faced by people moving through the system, deportation and incarceration issues, and the service that recent law school graduates and established attorneys can provide to vulnerable individuals and the rule of law.

Communities in Conflict with Police: How to Facilitate Dispute Resolution, Mediate Offensive Policies, and Petition the Government for Redress of Grievances

Police cannot adequately serve the public without the respect and trust of the communities they serve.  Who speaks for the community, and how can the legal system ensure that those voices are heard? What does equal protection under the law mean on the streets of America, where law enforcement is necessarily discretionary?  What role should the federal government occupy when local trust in the rule of law recedes?  How can community leaders and practicing attorneys facilitate positive outcomes from conflict?  This panel will address leading local, state, and federal initiatives to maintain dialogue between law enforcement authorities and the communities they serve.   

Human Trafficking: Georgia’s Response to an International Problem

On October 19, 2014 Attorney General Sam Olens announced the appointment of a dedicated Human Trafficking prosecutor.  The scale and horrific consequences of human trafficking have prompted international concern, with the United States ratifying the UN Trafficking Protocol (supplementing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime) in 2005.  At the same time, domestic sex trafficking often involves children who have never crossed state lines.    While federal law controls important components of assisting victims of human trafficking, the prevention and punishment of human trafficking requires the commitment of state resources and the enforcement of state laws.  Georgia has tough laws and an expressed commitment to aiding victims.  This panel will discuss both the prosecution of traffickers and the many legal or social service issues involved in assisting victims.    

Prisoners of Debt: Costs and Consequences of Civil Penalties and Routine Criminal Procedures

This panel will consider the costs incurred by people when their lives become entwined with law enforcement and the routine processes of sentencing and civil penalties.  From the fees and penalties associated with probation, often administered by private companies, to the costs that a person incurs when they are arrested for a failure to appear in court, to the consequences of being jailed when bail exceeds a person’s means, are the punitive consequences proportionate to the offense?  This panel will discuss the costs incurred by citizens who become trapped in a cycle of debt and imprisonment, the potential for reform, and the lessons to be learned from alternative courts.



The WIPI Conference was founded by UGA Law Students in 2005. Kelly James, Rakesh Parekh, Heidi Taylor, and Vanessa Volz teamed up to develop a conference proposal. Dean Rebecca H. White of the UGA School of Law graciously offered to support the endeavor and WIPI was born. The first annual WIPI Conference was held in April of 2006, and former Senator John Edwards served as the inaugural keynote speaker.

Past WIPI Conferences and Panel Research Papers (2015 Panel Research Papers forthcoming)

WIPI Awards

In 2007, the WIPI Executive Board established the Milner S. Ball Lifetime Achievement Award to honor practitioners that have dedicated their careers to public interest work. The award is named for Professor Ball, who founded UGA's Public Interest Practicum and inspired many UGA students to pursue their interests in public interest law.


2014 - Stephen Bright, President and Senior Counsel, Southern Center for Human Rights
2012 - Don Keenan, Founder, Keenan's Kids Foundation
2011 - Doug Ammar, Executive Director of Georgia Justice Project
2010 - John Whithead, President and Founder of the Rutherford Institute
2009 - J.L. Chestnut, Civil Rights Advocate 
2008 - Phyllis Holmen, Executive Director, Georgia Legal Services Program
2007 - Prof. Milner S. Ball, Caldwell Professor of Constitutional Law, UGA, & Founder of the UGA Law School Public Interest Practicum

The WIPI Executive board also created the WIPI Student Achievement Award to honor law students who, through their work in public interest, made a significant difference in the lives of the indigent or under-served. Candidates for the award should be current law students, who did not receive compensation or monetary reward for their efforts. Work performed in clinics, internships, and externship for class credit is acceptable. Please send your nominations for both awards to wipiconference@gmail.com.


2012 - Touch Thouk, 3L, University of Saint Thomas School of Law
2011 - Emma Hetherington, 3L, University of Georgia School of Law, Co-Founder Public Interest Law Council
2010 - Nikki Thanos, 3L, Loyola Univeristy College of Law in New Orleans Louisiana
2009 - Rebecca Williford, 3L, University of North Carolina, President of Disability Law Association.
2008 - Steve Weyer and Terri Porter, Co-Chairs of EPIC 2008, Inspiration Awards, Emory Law School
2007 - Cliff Williams, 3L, Georgia State University College of Law and Georgia Innocence Project Intern


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