Michigan Law student awarded 2017 Skadden Fellowship

By Lori Atherton
U-M Law

Dana Leib came to Michigan Law intent on becoming a public interest lawyer, and she’ll graduate from the Law School in May with the opportunity to make her dream a reality, thanks to a 2017 Skadden Fellowship.

Leib, a 3L, will join Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem (NDS), where she’ll practice family defense law. “The use of old foster case records against former foster children who are now parents in the child welfare system is a problem that affects so many of NDS’s clients,” said Leib, who interned at NDS as a 2L. “The Skadden Fellowship will allow both NDS and me to focus specifically on this aspect of the child welfare system and to devote the time and effort required to change this unfair practice.”

Michigan Law has had 34 Skadden Fellows since the program was founded in 1988 by the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Each year, Fellowships fund 28 new graduates in full-time work at legal and other advocacy organizations that focus on helping poor, disabled, elderly, and homeless people and other underserved groups. Skadden Fellowships are awarded for two years and cover each fellow’s salary and fringe benefits—the equivalent of what they would earn with their sponsoring organizations.

Leib knew at age 12 that she wanted to be a lawyer, thanks, in part, to the influence of her grandfather, a lawyer who joined his own father’s firm. “Growing up, the law was always the lens through which my family and I discussed the problems we saw in the world and how we could go about addressing them,” Leib said. “One of the main reasons I came to Michigan Law was the strength of its public interest program.”

At Michigan, Leib immersed herself in extracurricular activities and clinics in an effort “to gain as many practical skills and experiences as possible.” She served as the managing executive editor of the Michigan Journal of Law Reform; was a head coach for Future Advocates in Training, an organization that coaches high school students in mock trial; and was a student-attorney in the Child Welfare Appellate, Child Advocacy Law, Pediatric Advocacy, and Juvenile Justice clinics. “My goal was to learn some of the substantive law in the many areas that were likely to affect my clients’ lives,” Leib said. “I’ve been able to work on child welfare cases—representing both parents and children—at the appellate and trial level, custody cases, public benefits cases, and juvenile delinquency cases under the supervision of amazing professors.”

Leib’s ultimate career goal “is to do family defense work for as long as vulnerable families are disadvantaged by the child welfare system. I love working directly with clients and being able to litigate these issues in family court.”