Law Student Volunteers
Volunteering provides law students with an opportunity to learn about how the law relates to the unique issues raised in the arts and by artists. Several former students are now VLAA volunteers.
We welcome law students who would like to volunteer during the academic year or summer months. Generally, students select a research project and work independently or in small groups. Some students assist with administrative tasks. We look for self-motivated, energetic and reliable law students. To apply, please submit a letter of interest and a current resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. Some law schools offer stipends for public interest summer internships. For more information, contact your law school's public service office.
Ten highly-motivated law students spent their summer vacation with us learning about how the law relates to the unique issues raised in the arts and by artists. The students also visited with several area law firms to meet with VLAA volunteers. “The visits were not only a valuable networking opportunity but also a great learning experience," said Michael Murphy. "Without VLAA I might never have had the chance to meet these attorneys, listen to their stories and see their different firm settings. It was valuable to see attorneys from different size and types of firms and how they got to where they are now.” Kevin Webb, a rising Washington University 3L, served as our program coordinator. Chris Krull, a journalism graduate student at St. Louis University, edited the pieces to ensure that they are accessible and compelling for our arts audience. Volunteer attorney Elizabeth Gosney consulted on legal content.
Top Row: George Bailey (WU), Claire Flores (SLU), Alex Hamond (SLU) and Chris Krull (SLU). Middle Row: Michael LaBozzetta (SLU), Michael Murphy (SLU), Beth Owen (SLU) and Andrew Rembis (WU). Bottom Row: Craig Richards (SLU), Christen Smith (SLU), Zachary Washlaski (WU) and Kevin Webb (WU)
As Alex Shepard and Douglas Murphy recently discovered, practical experience complements textbooks and lectures. They were among the eleven law students who volunteered at VLAA during their summer vacation.
Murphy worked on our accounting check-up project with Michael Croghan and Robert Hirsch. “Our job was to compose a financial checklist for arts organizations with gross revenues between $200,000 and $500,000 in order to improve their accountability, efficiency and financial integrity,” Murphy said. “I learned a lot., and I was very happy to be part of this program.”
Our hardworking summer associates were: Michael Croghan, Douglas Murphy and Christina Perry (St. Louis University School of Law) and Candice Bowling, Margaret Gibson, Tyler Gritts, Robert Hirsch, Fanyu Kong, David Moore, Anne O'Neil-White and Alex Shepard (Washington University School of Law). Several students received public interest stipends. We are grateful to their law schools for providing that support.
Spring 2011: Three Students Skip Beach Hopping
Can the indie pop band, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, get into legal trouble for using the deceased Russian president’s name? Kevin Webb spent his “alternative spring break” volunteering at VLAA to research this and other pesky questions posed by local bands. “I walked away with four answered, all great questions, including the one about the right of publicity. In short, it was a great experience, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in volunteering next year,” he said. Webb and Kelly Wenell, another spring break volunteer, are 1Ls at Washington University School of Law. They worked along side Yuran “Rainny” Ye, who is enrolled in the school’s LLM program in U.S. Law for Foreign Lawyers. "Working at VLAA was an eye-opening journey for me," Ye said. “Knowing my work will actually help artists, I had more passion and fun studying legal issues.” The alternative spring break project provided an opportunity for the three students to give back to the community, gain practical experience and network. Entertainment attorney Elizabeth L. Cox, who received her JD from Washington University in 2009, supervised the students. So what about Boris Yeltsin? To read Webb’s response, visit Band Q&A.
The bleak summer job market and a commitment to community service brought ten law students to St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts in 2010. The students worked on a variety of research and writing projects. They prepared summaries of important art-law cases and answers to legal and business questions posed by St. Louis area bands. Two students updated our Festivals and Fairs: A Legal and Accounting Guide and wrote book reviews for the St. Louis City Public Library’s nonprofit blog. Another team assembled materials on free speech controversies involving theatrical productions in high schools.
“My time with the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts organization was time well spent,” said Edward Tate. “It was a very pleasant experience that I enjoyed immensely.” Now a 2L at Washington University, Tate and several other students received public interest stipends from their law schools, which encourage students to pursue public service opportunities. Shannon Martinez, a St. Louis University volunteer, said she enjoyed meeting St. Louis artists and learning about running a nonprofit organization. She also made a new friend, Whitney Digilio, who attends Washington University. Bound for California after graduation, Martinez is still volunteering on Wednesdays, mostly assisting with case follow-up. “That work has underscored a topic we’ve covered in our ethics class — how important it is for attorneys to keep in touch with their clients,” she said.
Connor McCullough, Travis Mehler and Joey Miller (St. Louis University), Amy Patel (University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign) and Joe Hadacek, Qi Mei, Ying-Chia Shish (Washington University) also volunteered. We are grateful to them.
A dozen rising 2Ls spent their summer vacations volunteering at St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts. Volunteering introduces students to pro bono service, gives them practical experience and provides an opportunity to work with St. Louis area lawyers and other professionals.
Jessica Hille (pictured here), Erin McGowan and Laurie Washington were paired with Ligaya Figueras (pictured here), the St. Louis Publishers Association’s communications manager. The three law students researched and wrote several articles for the organization’s monthly newsletter on topics such publishing contracts and permission letters for reproducing copyrighted materials. They also compiled a glossary of copyright terms for Art Calendar, a national publication for visual artists. “These projects have given me the opportunity to learn about the practical applications of copyright law,” Hille said. “I liked exploring the intersection of art and law, and I know that I want to work with intellectual property law after graduation.”
Brent Harrison worked primarily on a new section of VLAA’s website that will help nonprofit arts organizations understand the legal issues surrounding websites. The project took Harrison through copyright, unfair competition, contracts, publicity rights, trademark and fundraising, among other topics. “Not only have I learned a lot about the laws that govern and affect Internet communications, but I have also gained an understanding of how the Internet functions practically,” he explained. “I found it very interesting to see the ways in which legal issues on the web are always emerging — the attempts to fit old world laws into the new world landscape is really fascinating — as are some of the new laws such as cyber squatting statutes.” Harrison received a pro bono stipend, and was mentored by Zachary L. Hammerman, Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale.
Hille and Harrison attend Washington University School of Law. McGowan and Washington are students at St. Louis University School of Law. Jonathan Cole, Garrett Fischer, Josh Howell, Justin Ijei, Nicholas Klumb, Christian T. Misner, Katie Strutz and Mark Yossef also volunteered. Thanks!
Partnership With Washington University
"Working with Sinita to form The FAM Cultural Academy has been the highlight of my law school career," said Dan O'Connor. He participated in our public service program, which matches Washington University law students with new arts organizations seeking assistance with incorporating as nonprofit corporations and applying for tax-exempt status, which is a national model. Students are trained by VLAA volunteers Lawrence P. Katzenstein and Richard L. Lawton, Thompson Coburn LLP, and are mentored by St. Louis area attorneys. Our partnership with Washington University School of Law also includes sending assignments to students working with the school's Intellectual Property & Business Formation Clinic. The copyright clearance research conducted by Toby Buloff enabled Elder Robert Woodie and other members of the Kennerly Temple Choir to produce its gospel CD, Upon This Rock. "We couldn't have done it without Toby. The Lord sent her our way," Woodie said.