Wayne Law Public Interest Law Fellow Eric Berg Serving Community, Gaining Valuable Experience
DETROIT (July 28, 2009) – Eric Berg, a Wayne State University Law School Public Interest Law Fellow, is dedicated to serving the underserved. His experience as a sixth-grade teacher at an inner-city Miami school significantly impacted the course of his career and life, leading to his current summer position with the Department of the Attorney General of Michigan, Division of Child and Family Services.
“My students in Miami faced serious impediments to educational achievement,” said the Southfield, Mich. resident. “They complained about hearing gunshots at night and described, in heartbreaking detail, the violence that haunted their streets. Their basic skills in reading and writing lagged behind those of their affluent peers by an average of three years. Hearing their stories not only made me want to be the best teacher possible, it made me want to advocate on their behalf.”
According to Berg, who has also served as a peer mentor in a runaway shelter and volunteered his time to assist in selecting and training educators to staff low-income schools, it was his teaching experience in Miami that provided a foundation for a future career in public service.
“I realized that when my students had real leadership, motivation, and careful pedagogy, they flourished,” Berg said. “The transformations they made encouraged me to seek out leadership roles within the school and educational community. It also inspired me to apply to Wayne Law so that I might be even better equipped to serve the community through the law.”
Now in his second year of law school, Berg was one of 10 Wayne Law students selected to receive a $6,000 Public Interest Law Fellowship this spring. The fellowships were created by the Law School in an effort to allow students additional opportunities to gain practical experience before graduation and offer needed assistance to organizations providing legal services to underserved constituencies.
The fellowships were also created to ease financial stress.
“I do have real anxiety about managing my financial commitments, including paying down student loans, while working in public interest or public service after law school,” Berg said. “This fellowship allowed me to stay solvent this summer while contributing to an agency not equipped or able to provide financial remuneration. Based on my financial situation I would have had to pursue work in the private sector if not for this fellowship.”
Financial worry aside, Berg has kept busy this summer gaining experience at the Department of the Attorney General of Michigan, Division of Child and Family Services, where he assists attorneys with civil suits on behalf of Detroit’s Department of Social Services. Specifically, he is charged with general trial preparation, legal research, drafting motions, writing briefs and observing attorneys in court.
“I am learning a great deal and have been able to use and practice some of the skills I learned this year in legal research and writing,” Berg said. “A summer job can be an invaluable barometer to gauge your interest and fit for an agency, firm or practice area. I would encourage other students interested in public interest to spend some time working in that field.”
He added, “I am glad I have had the opportunity to work in the public sector during law school. I am very interested in continuing to serve low-income and at-risk children, and believe this experience will help shape my decision on what type of job to pursue when I graduate.”
About Wayne Law
Wayne State University Law School has educated and served the Detroit metropolitan area since its inception as Detroit City Law School in 1927. Located at 471 West Palmer Street in Detroit’s re-energized historic cultural center, the Law School remains committed to student success and features modern lecture and court facilities, multi-media and distance learning classrooms, a 250-seat auditorium, and the Arthur Neef Law Library, which houses one of the nation's 40 largest legal collections. Taught by an internationally recognized and expert faculty, Wayne Law students experience a high-quality legal education via a growing array of hands-on curricular offerings, client clinics, and access to well over 100 internships with local and non-profit entities each year. Its 11,000 living alumni, who work in every state of the nation and more than a dozen foreign countries, are experts in their disciplines and include leading members of the local, national and international legal communities. For more information, visit www.law.wayne.edu.