Two U of C Law students were named Sonnenschein Scholars last weekend. Nathan Ross Christensen and Hollin Kretzmann, both first-years in the Law School, were selected to receive the $4,000 stipend to support their work this summer in public interest law in the award presented by the law firm Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal.
In addition to Christensen and Kretzmann, two first-year students at 25 other top law schools nationwide were awarded. The 50 Sonnenschein scholars, selected for their undergraduate performances and commitments to public service, will be working this summer for organizations like Legal Aid and the American Civil Liberties Union and with public-interest agencies as far away as Cambodia.
Each of the students selected for the award had long records of public service before they applied, said Jerry Wolf, head of practice law at Sonnenscheins Kansas City office.
With his award, Christensen will remain in Chicago, working in the office of Pat Fitzgerald, U.S. district attorney for Northern Illinois. He hopes to translate this experience into either a governmental or non-profit law career.
Before coming to Chicago, Christensen spent two years teaching a fourth-grade class in inner-city Atlanta for Teach for America.
This experience sparked Christensens interest in public-service law when he saw a lot of people who dont have very good access to representation and help, along with the hostile relationship between the government and communities [that I worked in], he said.
Kretzmann will focus on environmental law in his work with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a large environmental litigation non-profit in Santa Monica, California. Kretzmann, who is currently pursuing a career in environmental law, worked previously as an intern for the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture.
Law students graduate with a tremendous amount of debt, which makes it tough to take a public interest job and turn down a more lucrative offer from a firm that does not have public interest as its primary concern, Kretzmann said, adding that the Sonnenschein Scholars program makes the financial burden of education easier to handle.