Annual PILF Auction Raises Spirits— and Funds —for a Good Cause

New York, March 26, 2015—Columbia Law School’s Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) raised almost $60,000 from an estimated 350 students, faculty, and staff who spent the evening of March 5 in spirited bidding wars at the organization’s annual auction, “Bid for Justice.” PILF raises money to fund students doing summer public-interest work, and gives grants to organizations that provide legal services to communities in need.
This year, generous donors offered 30 prizes for the live auction and more than 70 items for the silent auction. Here, in no particular order, are some of the live- and silent-auction lots that inspired the evening’s liveliest bidding:
Students, faculty, and staff bid on more than 100 items at PILF's annual auction, "Bid For Justice."
1.     L16—Lunch with Professor Cleveland and Amal Clooney
Six third-year students will dine at the elegant Jean-Georges with stunning views of New York’s Central Park with Professor Sarah Cleveland, faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute, and Amal Clooney, visiting faculty and senior fellow with the institute. In pitching the prize, auctioneer Professor Alexandra Carter joked that proximity to Clooney, wife of actor George Clooney, means, “You might end up in US Weekly.” But winner Meredith Ward ’15 said her admiration for Clooney has nothing do with Hollywood: She’s been following the human-rights star’s legal career for years. “She’s such an inspirational lawyer,” said Ward.
2.     S36—Personalized Rap Song
Tandice Ossareh ’17 was the first to write her name on the bid sheet for this prize, which came with this description: “Do you ever think about how much more awesome…experiences could be if you could also be listening to your own personal rap anthem?” Said Ossareh: “It’s the closest I will ever come to fame.” The song, donated by Paul Chander ’15, turned out to be among the most popular silent-auction items and was one of several student-donated prizes, along with homemade peanut-butter Nutella cookies, a custom oil painting, ballroom-dancing classes, knitting lessons, and not one, but two, puppy play dates (in which the winner spends an afternoon with a law student’s dog).
Professor Alexandra Carter and Dean of Students Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin got the bidding started as high-energy auctioneers.
3.     L6—Shaken or Stirred? Straight Up or on the Rocks?
Carter pointed out that this prize, a martini-making class with Professor Phillip Bobbitt (liberal samples included), would yield lifelong skills. Six first-years who took Legal Methods with Professor Bobbitt jumped at the chance. Among them was Michael Naclerio ’17 who said, “It’s a chance to network with him and give back to a good cause.”
4.     L3—Tale of Two Cases Breakfast
For this prize, Professor Suzanne Goldberg promised to share “some of the funny and not-so-funny behind-the-scenes stories of Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas and the world of LGBT/HIV rights advocacy” over breakfast or lunch at Community. The Columbia-area eatery is so popular that First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia Obama recently visited for lunch while touring Columbia; it’s notoriously hard to score a table there. Said auctioneer and Dean of Students Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, “a table at Community can never be priced high enough.”
Bidding grew intense for prizes including meals with faculty and a Rangers-Senators hockey game with Dean Gillian Lester.
5.     S49, S50, S51—A $250 Apple gift card and two iPad minis
After bidding on an iPad, Gatsby Miller ’15 said he was happy to give back to PILF, especially because he had taken advantage of the guaranteed funding during a summer public-interest internships. Bid for Justice, he said, “combines an enjoyable evening and shows support for students not going to traditional law firms.”
6.     L11—Hockey with the Dean
Three first-year students bid on Dean Gillian Lester’s offer to take students to the Rangers-Senators matchup at Madison Square Garden— hot dogs and beer included. The winners included a die-hard Rangers fan, as well as Naomi Prodeau ’17 who said, “I used to live in Finland so I love ice hockey.”
7.     L9—Berkshire Retreat
The chance to spend a three-day weekend at the Berkshires home of Professor Peter Strauss, who has long served on the board of PILF, quickly got bidders raising their paddles. Greenberg-Kobrin wasn’t surprised. “I have to tell you. Many of you look like you need a vacation.”

Dean of Social Justice Initiatives Ellen Chapnick, left, who is instrumental in preparing students for public serviceProfessors Robert J. Jackson Jr. and Elora Mukherjee served as auctioneers, right.

Among the other inventive live-auction prize packages were: How to Negotiate with North Koreans, which offered winners homemade Korean barbecue at the home of Jeong-Ho Roh, a lecturer and director of the Center for Korean Legal Studies; a Walking Food Tour of Brooklyn led by lecturers Sean Stenstrom and Shawn Pelsinger; and Cocktails, Chelsea, Conceivable Caper with Professors Kathryn Judge and Tim Wu, whose description in the brochure promised, “You may discover a whole new level of art appreciation.”
The Judge/Wu item was the evening’s third- most popular item, behind the most sought after, lunch with Cleveland and Clooney, and second most popular, a steak dinner at the famed Peter Luger’s with Professor Robert J. Jackson Jr.
Bid for Justice was chaired by Tom Koester ’16 and Linda Moon ’16. The top sponsors were BARBRI and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Participants reveled in the triumph and heartbreak of the rapid-fire auction for a good cause.