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. Attendees of the conference are given great networking opportunities with professionals in various fields of public interest law.

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 advocacy and the law.



Advisor: Professor Christine Scartz

Executive Director Dana Leader dml12294@uga.edu
Speaker Selection Chair Sarah Mirza smirza@uga.edu
Deputy Director Shivani Patel shivanip@uga.edu
Conference Day Logistics Chair Taylor Samuels tas53211@uga.edu

Conference Information

The 13th Annual Working in the Public Interest (WIPI) conference will focus on the intersection of poverty, criminal justice, and community. This year, WIPI conference is working in collaboration with the School of Social Work to provide a more holistic, contextual approach to systemic problems within our community.
The event is free for members of the UGA community. For attorneys, four hours of continuing legal education credits are available at a total cost of $100. For social workers, four hours continuing education units are available for $50. The fee for all other entrants is $25. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
A reception will be held after and is included into the price of all paid tickets. The fee for the reception alone is $10.
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Larry Walker Room, Fourth Floor of Dean Rusk Hall, University of Georgia School of Law
Continuing Legal Education Credits (CLE) and Social Work Continuing Educatiom Unitea (CEU) Available
This event offers two CLE tracks of either four hours of regular CLE credit or three regular hours of CLE credit with 1 hour of trial advocacy. To receive CLE credits, attorneys must register or the entire conference. This event offers four hours social work CEUs. To receive CEU credits, social workers must register for the entire conference.




2018 Conference Schedule

February 17, 2018
Larry Walker Room, Fourth Floor of Dean Rusk Hall, University of Georgia School of Law, Athens, Georgia

  • 8:30- 9:00 Registration and Breakfast
  • 9:00- 10:00 9-10 Session 1: The History of Forcible Removal of Children in the US
  • 10:15-11:15 Session 2: Reforming Cash Bail Bonds
  • 11:30 Keynote and Lunch
  • 12:45-1:45 Session 3: Connecting Children and Incarcerated Parents
  • 2:00-3:00 Session 4
    • Session 4a: Advocating for Housing and the Homeless
    • Session 4b: Advocating Against the Child Welfare System
    • Session 4c: Advocating Against Pre-Trial Incarceration
  • 3:30- 4:30 Reception

Panel Descriptions

9:00- 10:00 

Session 1: The History of Forcible Removal of Children in the US

Child welfare agencies currently remove children of color at rates double and triple their proportion of the population. Panelists will discuss the historical removal of Native, African-American and Latinx children as well as how to improve conditions today.


Session 2: Reforming Cash Bail Bonds

Many people charged with misdemeanors await trial while in jail because they cannot afford the bonds set by the magistrate guidelines, often for longer than the sentence if they were found guilty. Panelists will discuss the historical context of cash bonds and what is currently being done to fight them.


Session 3: Connecting Children and Incarcerated Parents

Incarcerated parents are significantly more likely to have their parental rights terminated simply due to their incarceration. Panelists will discuss how to combat TPRs, advocate for visitation, and ensure case plan services are being provided.


Session 4 Session 4a: Advocating for Housing and the Homeless

Almost half of the homeless position has a history of incarceration, often for offenses causes by their shelterless status. Panelists will discuss ways to fight anti-vagrancy charges, housing discrimination, as well as ways to advocate for better transportation options for disenfranchised populations.

Session 4b: Advocating Against the Child Welfare System [Trial Advocacy CLE]

Parents are often forgotten within the child welfare system which focuses on the best interests of the child while disregarding the constitutional rights of the parents. Panelists will discuss unnecessary removals, defining reasonable efforts, and ensuring personalized case plans through trial skills.

Session 4c: Advocating Against Pre-Trial Incarceration [Trial Advocacy CLE]

Pre-trial Incarceration, especially for misdemeanors, often results in incarceration far beyond the potential sentence if found guilty, and is almost always due to the inability to post bail. Panelists will discuss advocating for lower bonds, non-cash bonds, and diversion options through trial skills.


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.

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.


      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

Student organizations are not a part of nor are they agencies of the University of Georgia School of Law or the University of Georgia.  Neither the University of Georgia School of Law nor the University of Georgia direct, supervise, or control these organizations.  Each organization is a separate and independent organization and is responsible for and manages its own activities and affairs. The University of Georgia School of Law and the University of Georgia are not responsible for any of these organizations’ contracts, acts or omissions.

The content and opinions expressed in student organization websites linked from this web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.