Public Interest Grants Embody Carey Motto of "Doing Good While Doing Well"

    Stephanie Malcolm will never forget what she learned about service when the supervising attorney on her internship at the Maryland Disability Law Center took her to a client’s home.

    The client, a disabled single mother of four, had gone several days without a visit from a nurse and had fallen behind. The kitchen was a mess, the children were unsupervised, and even the woman’s personal cleanliness was neglected. Malcolm and the attorney – who bought groceries for the family – helped the client take care of the mail and organize her personal affairs. The client had clearly been overwhelmed, and needed the assistance.

    Then the attorney went further, offering to bathe the woman, and getting her clean for the first time in days. The experience made Malcolm realize that good lawyering sometimes means more than preparing thoroughly or writing a great brief.
    “You can’t simulate those kinds of things,” she said. “It’s important for students to get that experience.”

    But many public interest law agencies don’t have the money to pay their interns, so students need financial support to make these opportunities happen. Fortunately for Malcolm, she was the first beneficiary of the Shale D. Stiller Public Interest Fellowship Endowment, named for the DLA Piper partner, civic activist and UM Carey Law adjunct professor. And in the summer of 2013 more student support will be available under The Hon. Ellen M. Heller Public Interest Fellowship Endowment, named for the innovative judge, civic activist, and alumna who is married to Stiller.

    While Stiller and Heller are giants of Maryland’s legal community and integral members of the UM Carey Law family, funding for the endowments came from a couple who had no connection to the law school.

    Erwin Greenberg, a Baltimore-area real estate developer, has known Stiller for more than 50 years. Stiller has been Greenberg’s attorney, friend and confidant. He and his wife, Stephanie, who run a family foundation focusing on poverty, education, and human services in Baltimore, searched for a meaningful, valuable way to honor Stiller. With 2012 being his 50th year as an adjunct professor, and the School looking to deepen its public interest fellowships, Stephanie Greenberg said “the bells went off.”

    She was thrilled the gift would not just honor Stiller’s career in the law, but would also support public service law agencies by making it affordable for students to work there. But there was still a problem.

    “When can we do one for Ellen?” the Greenbergs wondered.

    The School helped them establish the fellowship in Heller’s name, and the first student will go to work at a public interest law job under Heller’s name this summer.

    “There are no two people who are more deserving,” said Stephanie Greenberg. “We hit the jackpot.”

    Heller and Stiller feel the same way about the Greenbergs, whose philanthropy extends beyond spending money to personally working with children at Kennedy Krieger Institute and piloting emergency flights for injured veterans to get better medical care. But as close as they are, the gifts were a complete surprise to Stiller and Heller.

    “I got out of my seat and gave a kiss to both of them,” said Stiller, who got the news from Dean Phoebe Haddon with the Greenbergs in the room.

    Though his legal career has allowed him to guide people, companies and institutions, Stiller says “every year I learn something new” through teaching. And being around young people keeps him vibrant.

    Heller finished her undergraduate and law school education as a mother in her 30s, and appreciates that the fellowships “can open the doors and opportunities to others.” Public interest lawyers have numerous tools at their disposal to help people in need. “I think this is one of the most important roles of the law,” she said.

    Each year, the Maryland Public Interest Law Project (MPILP) provides summer grants for students to work at local non-profits. During the 2012 summer, 32 students received public interest grants.

    --Written by Jeffrey Raymond

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    Copyright © 2008, University of Maryland, School of Law. All Rights Reserved