Sondheim Fellows prepare for careers in public interest law

Alexander Batton ’21 wants to “help make Baltimore a better place.” That’s why he was thrilled to land an internship last summer as a law clerk with the Maryland Attorney General, Organized Crime Unit. There, he gained experience analyzing wiretaps, jail calls, social media records, and cell phone extractions, and assembling presentations for trial.

“By working with highly qualified public servants,” says Batton, “I felt that I had an opportunity to make a difference in Baltimore. Not to mention getting valuable lawyering experience.”

The 2L’s internship was made possible through the Sondheim Public Service Law Fellowship program, offering on-the-job opportunities to law students interested in careers in public service.

“The program provides the opportunity for students to connect passion to purpose, pursuing careers that make a positive impact in the lives of all Marylanders,” says Hannah Schmitz, who administers the program on behalf of the state of Maryland through the Shriver Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

The highly competitive fellowship is named for Walter Sondheim Jr., the longtime Baltimore civic leader who led the desegregation of Baltimore City schools in 1954 as president of the Board of School Commissioners, and was crucial to redevelopment efforts developing the Inner Harbor.

“He [Sondheim] died during the legislative session where my bill creating the intern program was enacted,” remembers Del. Samuel Rosenberg, a member of the Maryland Carey Law faculty, who amended the bill to name the program in Sondheim’s memory. “Whether a Sondheim internship leads to a full-time job or involvement as a volunteer, Walter would be proud of the work his interns do.”

This year, three Maryland Carey Law students were chosen to be “Walter’s interns.” Batton was joined by Kyla Kaplan ’20, who spent her summer at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Samuel Blotter ’21, who worked at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.

The Sondheim Fellows program has been supporting public interest law students since 2012. To be eligible to be selected as a Sondheim Fellow, future lawyers must be students at a Maryland law school and meet high academic standards. Fellows intern in the public service law sector, usually within the office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, or in a nonprofit or government organization that provides legal services to low-income or under-represented individuals or groups. Each year, five Sondheim Fellows are chosen. Since the program began, 24 Maryland Carey Law students have gained practical experience in public interest law as Sondheim Fellows.

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