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A dozen summer associates from three Philadelphia law firms participated in the local inaugural launch of the Anti-Defamation League Summer Associates Research Program in Philadelphia. The program, which has been ongoing for years at roughly 50 law firms around the country, was started in Philadelphia this summer. Summer associates volunteer and conduct up to 20 hours of legal research and writing on current civil rights legal issues for the ADL. The students wound up producing memorandums that could one day serve as a basis for briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. “We get the firms’ help and it exposes the students to a pro bono opportunity,” said ADL regional associate director Nancy Baron Baer, a former real estate partner at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott who joined the ADL last year. “It kind of mixes community service with schoolwork.” The three firms the ADL selected to participate — Cozen O’Connor, Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads and Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen — were each picked due to past participation in ADL activities. Three Wolf Block summer associates — Scott Caulfield, Thomas Kamvosoulis and Nadia Sawicki — chose to participate in the program after the firm’s pro bono coordinator, Colleen Coonelly, included the ADL as one of the pro bono options for the summer. Each summer associate was required to have a Wolf Block attorney as a mentor. Coonelly said the firm became involved after the arrival of partner Larry Spector last year from Mann Ungar Spector & Labovitz. Spector, a partner in the business litigation group, is serving as this year’s chairman of the ADL Board for Metropolitan Philadelphia. The summer associates were each given a constitutional law question and asked to produce a memorandum on the subject by the end of the summer, at which time they presented their finding to the entire group at a dinner reception. Sawicki, entering her final year at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, said she originally signed up for the program because it provided an opportunity to research issues that do not regularly come up in a large law firm setting. Her topic was whether allowing parents to pull their children out of tolerance and diversity classes — specifically those concerning the lesbian and gay community — violated the Safe Schools Act. She found that with some minor exceptions, it would not violate the law. Cozen O’Connor summer associate Adam Chesnick, entering his final year at Villanova University School of Law, was assigned the topic of whether public schools should allow prayer at graduation ceremonies. He said he researched the topic from the perspective of whether the prayer was being led by a student or a school faculty member as well as whether a moment of silence would be appropriate. He said he didn’t offer any specific conclusions but did provide relevant case law. “I thought this was a great opportunity to research some of the most intriguing legal issues of our generation,” Chesnick said. Montgomery McCracken partner Michael L. Epstein, who headed up the project for his firm, could not be reached for comment in connection with this story. Wolf Block hosted the ADL’s kick-off breakfast meeting commencing the program in June, at which time regional director Barry Morrison described the work of the ADL, including the human aspects of civil rights litigation. The featured speaker at that event, though, was the plaintiff in Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia v. Chester County, the case involving whether Chester County’s courthouse can keep a bronze plaque of the Ten Commandments that was mounted on its east wall 83 years ago. Last month, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous decision and determined that the plaque could stay, saying the modern-day county officials who refused to take it down acted only out of respect for its historic importance and not because they wanted to promote its religious message. Cozen O’Connor hosted the summer-end function where the students revealed their findings and heard from Drexel University general counsel Carl “Tobey” Oxholm III about the benefits of providing pro bono legal services while maintaining a private practice.

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