Last Friday, a “spicy Szechuan” dinner with Yale Law School professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld sold for $1,000 at the Law School’s annual Public Interest Auction.
Around 250 members of the Law School community attended the auction, which raised nearly $44,000 for the Law School’s public interest fellowships for recent graduates and graduating third year students. The 50 items that attracted the most interest at a silent auction in the Law School’s central hallway last week were auctioned off in person for an average of $600 each — a huge success, organizers said.
“Students, faculty, and staff bid enthusiastically from items ranging from karaoke night with professors to private sightseeing flights provided by students,” said organizer Christopher Hollins LAW ’12. He pointed to a moving special called “2 Guys 1 Truck” — two hours of moving assistance from students Manuel Giner LAW ’12 and Javier Zapata LAW ’12, plus use of a pick-up truck supplied by the students — as an example of an unorthodox auction item.
The auction benefits a legal non-profit organization, the Initiative for Public Interest Law at Yale. The organization awards two grants each year to law school alumni who provide legal services to under-served communities for one year, and gives preference to YLS alumni.
Initiative manager Elizabeth Kelly LAW ’12 said that due in part to the auction’s success, the Initiative for Public Interest Law at Yale will increase the value of the grants this year from $30,000 to $35,000.
Among the evening’s big ticket items was a “karaoke throwdown” with members of YLS class of 2000 and friends, which sold for $1,100, Kelly said. Throwdown participants include Asha Rangappa LAW ’00, an associate dean of the Law School, and journalist and Law School lecturer Emily Bazelon LAW ’00.
Organizer Kevin Hubbard LAW ’12 said the most popular auction items are usually those that involve faculty members.
“These items attract such high bids because students know their money is going to a worthy cause and value the opportunity to see the professors they admire in another light,” he said.
In addition to faculty entries, some of the quirkier lots included a “Romantic Skeet Shooting Date for Three,” which offers participants an afternoon of clay pigeon shooting with “experts” followed by a candlelight dinner. That date sold for $450. A lesson on “how to throw darts while speaking Swahili” pulled in $35 during the silent auction earlier in the week.
Though it was not part of the auction, the Mustaches for Public Interest Competition garnered $750. Male and female law students raised money based on the impressiveness of mustaches they grew over the past few weeks, said Hubbard.
The surprise winner was Haninah Levine LAW ’12, whose “Spartan War Helmet” mustache raised $240 alone, Hollins said.
“Yale Law School has a long tradition of great facial hair,” Levine said. “I’m just proud to be a part of that tradition — though according to Wikipedia, I’ve got nothing on 19th century Supreme Court Justice George Shiras.”
In addition the auction, the initiative also hosts a used book sale and a Law School formal to raise money. These efforts come as interest in the fellowships has increased, and the number of applications for the two grants doubled from 17 last year to 34 this year.
Applicants will be notified of the Initative’s decision in mid-April, and recipients will receive funding for a full year starting in September.
Hollins said that one of the two 2010 grant recipients partnered with The Bronx Public Defenders to advise teenagers during adult criminal court proceedings, while the other is working with Southern Center for Human Rights to advocate for consistent funding of Georgia’s public defender system.
According to their website, the Initiative may also give out several other partial grants of lesser monetary value. Each of the Auction organizers, along with around 20 other law students, serve on a board which selects grant recipients.