3L Mariel Mussack Awarded Prestigious Skadden Foundation Fellowship

The goal of the Fellowship is to encourage “talented young lawyers to pursue the practice of public interest law on a full-time basis” with the goal “to improve legal services for the poor and encourage economic independence.”

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School 3L Mariel Mussack is one of 28 Skadden Fellows who will devote the next two years of their careers to working in public interest.

Since 1988, the Skadden Foundation has funded public interest fellowships of 877 graduating law students and clerks. The program provides two-year fellowships “to talented young lawyers to pursue the practice of public interest law on a full-time basis” with the goal “to improve legal services for the poor and encourage economic independence.”

In the Skadden Fellowship Foundation’s 40-year history, 29 Penn Law students have been named Fellows.

As the daughter of immigrant parents, Mussack was inspired to apply for the fellowship by her desire to help immigrant communities thrive in this country – especially in the workplace.

“Work is at the core of what brings many immigrants to this country,” Mussack said, “yet they are often met with abusive employers who treat them unlawfully.”

Mussack said she saw this treatment “firsthand” through her clinic experiences at the Law School and internship opportunities at Community Legal Services and Justice at Work.

“These experiences, combined with the hostility aimed at Latinx immigrants in our current political climate, cemented my desire to represent immigrant workers after graduation,” she said.

The most recent Penn Law Skadden Fellow credits two Law School professors – both former Skadden Fellows themselves – as instrumental in her securing the prestigious honor.

“I don’t think I would have succeeded in the fellowship process without great clinical mentors like Professors [Kara] Finck and [Sarah] Paoletti,” said Mussack. “They were so supportive and generous with their time as well as incredibly helpful resources given that they both went through the fellowship application process themselves. I am continually inspired by their ability to balance their own caseloads and client work while being such dedicated instructors,” she added.

Finck was a Skadden Fellow in the Class of 2002 and Paoletti in 2000.

Before arriving at the Law School, Mussack earned a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature and international studies at The University of North Carolina, just about a half hour away from her hometown of Cary, NC. Mussack has made Philadelphia her home for the past seven years and urges all Law School students to get out and explore her neighborhood in South Philly.

“Favorites include babka and coffee at Essen Jewish Bakery, lamb tacos at South Philly Barbacoa, and Friday night karaoke at Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar.”

Unsurprisingly after expressing such high praise for the city, Mussack said she is hoping to stay long-term.

“Philly’s public interest community is so collaborative and tight-knit,” Mussack said. “It is honestly an amazing place to live and work.”

Mussack will serve her fellowship at Philadelphia’s Justice at Work, formerly known as Friends of Farmworkers, which provides free legal aid, community education, and advocacy for workers.

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