April 2, 2001
EPIC group becoming
By Stacia Brown
While the School of Law may be best known for churning out skilled corporate
lawyers, big businesses arent the only recipients of Gambrell Halls
best and brightest.
With the financial and networking assistance of the student-governed
Emory Public Interest Committee (EPIC),law students are enjoying increasing
numbers of opportunities to provide legal aid to impoverished communities.
EPIC might sound like a dream come true for law students interested in
public service. Its evolution, however, sounds more like a hard daysor
decadeswork. Lynne Tucker, co-president of EPIC and a second-year
law student, said continuity in leadership has been a challenge for the
Our board changes every year because were completely student-led,
Tucker said. Without the support of Sue McAvoy [in the law schools
Career Services], we would have no clear sense of our own institutional
The challenges EPIC has faced make its successes all the more remarkable.
This year, the group raised approximately $45,000 for its public interest
internship program through EPICs annual Inspiration Awards ceremony,
which honors local attorneys for outstanding service in the public interest
field. Individual ticketholders and local firms chime in to promote the
event and help raise money.
Corporate firms are among their largest contributors: King & Spalding,
Hunton & Williams, and Sutherland Ashbill & Brennan were last
years most generous sponsors.
The money raised from the Inspiration Awards is divided into a
number of $4,000 summer grants, said EPICs other co-president,
Kelli Zappas. Students interested in public interest law go out
into their communities and find their own internship. Then they come to
us and apply for funding.
Last year EPIC received 17 applications for 12 internship slots at agencies
like the Truancy Intervention Project in Atlanta, the DeKalb district
attorneys offices Crimes Against Children Unit, the Upper
Chattahoochee River Keeper, and the U.S. Equal Employment Commission in
While such agencies are well known for their ethical clout, they are
less known for their financial prosperity. Public interest organizations
cant spend a lot of money recruiting good lawyers with the same
intensity that corporations can, Tucker said.
With that impediment in mind, EPICs leaders have set twin goals: to help law students get connected with the needs of the community, and to help public interest agencies get connected with law students.
In February, EPIC joined with Georgia State, Georgia Tech and Mercer
Univesrity to sponsor a public interest career forum for law students.
More than 50 organizations participated, and students from across the
state showed up seeking internships and job opportunities.
EPICs role in the forumand in many other projectshas
been aided by the presence of its alumni advisory board, a group of Emory
law alums actively engaged in promoting the organizations presence
in both the corporate and nonprofit communities.
The alumni are our most important link to job opportunities and
to corporate funding, Zappas said. Theyve played a large
role in the successes weve enjoyed these past few years.
Zappas and Tucker are already thinking like alumni themselves; theyve
set EPICs sights on a long-range target: loan forgiveness programs.
When we leave Emory, we will walk out of here with anywhere from
$50,000 to $100,000 in loans, Tucker said. Someone desperately
needs to revive the loan forgiveness program that was once in place at
the law school. Students who move into public interest jobs are never
going to make the kind of money necessary to pay off their debts.
A loan forgiveness program, in Tuckers vision, would offer financial
incentives to public interest work. Students who commit themselves to
a certain number of years in public interest fields would have some or
all of their loans paid by the program EPIC is trying to establish.
Zappas admits that the amount of work involved in directing EPIC can
sometimes be difficult in and of itself.
As a full-time student, I dont have many hours to spare, she said. But EPIC is worth it. Its become the conscience of the law school.