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UNC School of Law holds annual auction to fund students working in public interest

law auction photo.jpg
Photo contributed by: Lauren Toole

Students and professors from the UNC School of Law will unite Thursday for a night of food, fun and some spirited bidding. 

On Jan. 25, the Carolina Public Interest Law Organization will host an annual auction to fund UNC law students taking jobs in public interest. The event includes both a live and silent auction held in the Great Room at Top of the Hill. 

The proceeds will go directly to law students who work for public interest organizations during the summer, like public defender or district attorney jobs, or working for nonprofit organizations. Often, these jobs receive little to no pay. Eric Fisher, the auction planning sub-chair, believes CPILO offers students a valuable opportunity to explore different careers in law and to serve the community. 

“This gives students a chance to explore different organizations that are doing great work,” Fisher said. “It also just means that there’s more great lawyers out there who are on the ground working with community members and North Carolinians a lot of times who ordinarily wouldn’t have legal support.” 

Held since 1997, the event is a trademark of the law school. Lauren Toole, the vice president of CPILO, estimated about 200 to 220 people came to the event last year. 

“Last year, we went from raising $15,000 to $20,000,” Toole said. “This year we hope to go from $20,000 to $25,000.” 

Most of the auction items are donations from professors at the law school, but some items are donated by alumni, local businesses, students or family members of students. 

Professor Richard Myers will be returning as CPILO’s auctioneer, making it his 15th year auctioneering for the event. He said there is always a wide variety of items people can bid on. One year, a student who was a sound engineer before coming to law school offered a demo recording session. Another student who had been a road manager for the Dave Matthews Band auctioned off tickets and backstage passes to the band’s concert. 

“Sometimes you’ve got these students who have great skills," Myers said. “A lot of them have had interesting undergraduate experiences or jobs before they come back to go to law school.” 

A popular item among those familiar with the event is a week-long trip to Gansbaai, South Africa. Jay Huber, a UNC Law graduate, regularly donates his house in Gansbaai to the auction. The students who go on the trip to South Africa often do so as their post-bar celebration. 

“It’s just a really cool, really unique, sort of opportunity for a group of students to go and hang out after the school year,” Fisher said. 

To Fisher, the auction is an example of why he came to study law at UNC. 

“I wanted to come to UNC Law because I feel like public service and being a part of the community is at the core of what we believe in and what we do,” Fisher said. 

Toole believes the whole affair is a positive, unifying force in a school that can feel divided between students who want to go into public interest, and students who want to go into the private sector. 

“It’s just this moment where everyone wants to contribute to everyone’s success, which sounds really cheesy, but everyone just has a great time,” Toole said. “In law school, sometimes you don’t always have the best time, so it’s nice to be able to come together for something like that.”


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