Students Vie for Prizes at Annual "Bid for Justice" PILF Auction
Event Raised Money—and School Spirit—in Support of Public Interest
New York, March 18, 2016—It was fierce—but friendly—competition at the 24th annual Bid for Justice Auction at Columbia Law School on March 3, with about 400 people bidding on more than 100 prizes in support of the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF).
PILF members were especially enthusiastic about a change in how the auction’s proceeds will be distributed. “What’s exciting this year is that PILF is supporting the Spring Break Pro Bono Caravans program in sending students around the world to do pro bono work,” said Jane Spinak, the Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and a PILF board member. This year, more than 100 students took part in the caravans program—which fulfills the school’s pro bono requirement—spending spring break working for nonprofits throughout the U.S., and abroad, in Jordan and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The auction raised $60,000, which, in addition to supporting the caravans, will also be distributed to organizations that provide legal services to communities in need.
As always at the Bid for Justice Auction, the mood was festive. The auctioneers—Professor Robert Jackson and Professor Olati Johnson the first half of the evening; Professor Eric Talley and Dean of Students Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin the second half—coaxed bidders to raise their paddles for an array of imaginative gifts. Here, in no particular order, are some of the live and silent auction lots that inspired the liveliest bidding:
Professors Olati Johnson and Robert Jackson drum up the bidding as co-auctioneers
L10: Customized Murder Mystery: Christopher Helwig ’17 will write a custom murder mystery for up to 14 people, to be acted out in an evening. Helwig honed his mystery writing skills while at the University of Edinburgh and founded the Law School’s Murder Mystery Society. The winner, who paid $325 for the prize, can conceive any setting for Helwig to write. “I've written mysteries about everything from science fiction mash-ups to a women-only movie being produced in 1920s Hollywood. I relish the challenge of writing a new and unexpected setting,” explained Helwig. He plans pursue public interest law, so was excited to lend his unique skills to the cause. “Organizations like PILF, the Student Public Interest Network, and the Social Justice Initiative are doing fantastic work to make it possible for Columbia students to engage in public interest in law school and beyond,” he said.
L13: An Oar-Some Adventure: Six students spent $450 to join Law School Dean Gillian Lester and Professor Eric Talley for a picnic dinner and a twilight kayaking trip down the Hudson in June. Among them was Rajah Husain ’17, who said the students had kayaked at the start of the semester and welcomed the idea of replicating the trip, this time in the evening.
S46: NYC Sporting Event: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP donated two tickets to any New York City sporting event this season. Among those who bid was PILF president George Tepe ’17, who said the auction is among his favorite law school events, because “In the end what unites us all is that everyone is dedicated to supporting public interest law,” he said. Tepe did not end up winning the sports tickets, but did win S16: Bidder’s Choice, for which auction co-chair Angelica Tillander ’17 promised to make any dessert in her recipe book. “It was a well-spent $20,” Tepe said.
Professor Eric Talley and Dean of Students Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin engage the students as co-auctioneers
L8: Veni, Vidi, Vici Vinateria: “Sparkling conversation and a scrumptious dinner at Vinateria,” a popular Harlem wine bar and restaurant, with Professor Anu Bradford, went to Lane Feler ’15, now a law clerk at Clifford Chance. Feler planned the 2014 Bid for Justice Auction and was thrilled to return. “I miss Columbia so much. It’s fantastic to come back and see so many familiar faces.”
L17: Steak Dinner: The chance to dine at the famous Peter Luger’s steakhouse with Professor Robert Jackson gets the paddles waving year after year. Not only is Jackson a popular professor, he is also the resident PILF auctioneer, encouraging bidders with his lively banter and good-natured teasing. “If anyone can follow Amal Clooney it’s Robert Jackson,” said co-auctioneer Professor Olati Johnson, after a lunch with human rights lawyer and wife of actor George Clooney sold for $2100. Jackson’s prize was so popular that he ended up offering two of them, which sold for $1850 each.
S37: Doggy Date: A doggy play date with Chloe, lecturer Katie Lachter’s Shih Tzu, sold for $60. Studies show that pets ease depression and stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and cause all-around happiness, which could translate into better grades.
L21: Experience Nantucket: Among the most popular prizes each year are those that allow students to chip in for a weekend retreat. This package offered students a three-day weekend in the Nantucket home of Professors Elizabeth and Robert Scott, which, according to the catalog, “boasts panoramic ocean views and is only a five minute walk to the beach.” The weekend sold for $2,800, the highest bid for any auction item.
Dean Gillian Lester and Professor Peter Strauss enjoy the evening's festivities
"Bid for Justice" was chaired by Angelica Tillander ’17 and Elizabeth Taylor ’17, who credited Spinak and Professor Peter Strauss, also a PILF board member, with advising them through the planning process. They also thanked last year’s organizers, Tom Koester ’16 and Linda Moon ’16, who Tillander said “were consistently on hand to answer any questions and help with logistics, including volunteering to help us make paddles the night before the auction when our order did not come in on time.”
The top sponsors were Barbri, along with Fried, Frank, Harris, Schriver & Jacobson LLP.