Public Interest Law Initiative

PILI Alumni Couples Talk Service and Relationships

Posted on: February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine’s Day! We spoke with three PILI Alumni Couples about their experience as PILIs and how their commitment to service plays a role in their relationships.

Aaron DeCamp & Ann Pille

How did you meet?
Pille DeCamp Photo
Aaron and Ann met as 1L students at the University of Michigan Law School in 2001. He grew up in Ann Arbor, and came back to school there after having worked in the White House under Clinton. Ann took a year off after undergrad to work at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, always knowing that she would go to law school.  When that year was done, she headed to Ann Arbor.

What was your favorite thing about being a PILI Intern or Fellow?

Aaron: For me, the most rewarding part of my PILI internship was being exposed to so many wonderful public interest agencies through the lunch seminars. At that time, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in public interest law, but I was still exploring the right path for me. These seminars opened my eyes to so many wonderful people who have dedicated their careers to advancing the rights of the underserved. The presenters were all so impressive and accomplished and I knew then that I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Ann: Although I came from a policy background, most of my hand-on experience prior to my PILI Fellowship was in the academic research space.  My time at BPI afforded me the opportunity to see amazing minds working in real time to solve problems faced by underserved and underrepresented populations.  It was so inspiring. Even the conversations people had over lunch about the books they were reading were fascinating. I have so much respect for the people there, and the work that they do.

How has each of your commitment to service played a role in your lives and your relationship?

Aaron: I have dedicated my career to advancing the public interest through public service. It is impossible to separate service from my personal life and our relationship because they have become so intertwined. When we first met, we bonded over our mutual appreciation of service. Since then we have both made it a point to have service be a part of lives both professionally and personally. Now that we have a family, we have tried to instill that appreciation on to our children through community and volunteer activities.

Ann: Since graduating from law school, I’ve always worked at larger firms, and most of what I do is for large institutional clients. Still, Reed Smith really encourages its attorneys to find pro bono projects they’re passionate about.  Over the years, I’ve been involved in both important impact litigation and smaller direct representation matters for my pro bono clients.  Those projects have been among the most meaningful experiences of my professional career, and it feels great to accomplish something you know makes a real difference in a person’s life.  That commitment to service is really important in our personal life too. Aaron and I have two young daughters, and are trying hard to teach them about social justice and community service in age-appropriate ways.  We have lots of discussions around the dinner table about how not everyone has access to the same resources, and how it’s important to use your own abilities to help others.


Andrew & Lydia Sharp

How did you meet?
Lydia & Andrew
Andrew: We both participated in Chicago-Kent’s “summer start” program where you take one class during the summer before your 1L year. I saw her and a few other folks hanging outside the building after orientation night the week before class started. I walked up to them and we decided to go listen to some live music. We had our first date 5 days later.

Lydia: We met during law school orientation. We took Criminal Law the summer prior to our 1L year and there was a small orientation for this summer-start group. A number of us went out after orientation and Andrew and I quickly got to know each other.

What was your favorite thing about being a PILI Intern or Fellow?

Andrew: Getting to work directly with a lot of clients. I worked at CARPLS and was able to take numerous hotline calls and assist dozens of clients at two different help desks. It was my first time doing direct legal services, and it was a great learning experience.

Lydia: Being a PILI intern at Equip for Equality was a huge honor in law school. The PILI network is filled with so many wonderful, passionate public interest students and attorneys. I am continually thankful being part of this community.

How has each of your commitment to service played a role in your lives and your relationship?

Andrew: I would say one of the big reasons we were drawn to each other is our passion for service, not just as a portion of our career, but as our main focus. We both were committed to being public interest lawyers from the time we applied to law school. That’s not a common situation so we really bonded over that, and since then we’ve been able to support each other as we both found our place in the legal aid world in Chicago.

Lydia: I was drawn to Andrew because of our similar interests and backgrounds. We both came to law school interested in increasing access to justice and pursuing public interest law.  We both work in legal aid and find many opportunities to volunteer together in the community through our professions and through Soul City Church. Serving together has been part of our DNA from the start and I treasure these experiences.


Kyle Petersen & Max Stein

How did you meet?
Kyle & Max
Max: It’s a very romantic story – at least for a couple of lawyers.  We met at the start of our second year in law school.  We had Constitutional Law together and each noticed the other.

Kyle: As Max said, we met in Constitutional Law class during our second year of law school. Max always seemed to have his hand up and answering questions, so he was hard to miss. He still thinks he has all the answers!

What was your favorite thing about being a PILI Intern or Fellow?

Max: Seeing just how knowledgeable public interest lawyers are on their areas of practice.  I was a Fellow at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and worked on a number of different projects that summer.  I basically got to work with every lawyer on staff, and with each one of them I was immediately struck by the depth of their knowledge on the issues they were dealing with.  These were not simply people who had mastered an area of the law, rather they were world class experts on their particular issues, knowing every legal issue and strategy out there.

Kyle: I spent the summer of my PILI Fellowship working with the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic. DVLC provides free civil legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. I worked with clients to prepare them to go to court to get emergency orders of protection. Our clients were often at their most vulnerable when they walked in the door and being able to help in some small way to bring them a measure of safety and stability was tremendously gratifying. It also opened my eyes to the obstacles that so many people face in accessing the legal system. It became clear to me then that as a lawyer, I would have a responsibility to provide pro bono services and I have made that a part of my practice each and every year since the summer of my PILI fellowship.

How has each of your commitment to service played a role in your lives and your relationship?

Max: I think the best evidence of our combined commitment to service can be found in our daughters, and especially our 8th grader.  Both have already shown that they get that we are lucky and that not everyone is and it is important to help those that we can.  For instance, our 8th grader ran to be President of the National Junior Honor Society at her school on a platform of openness and then, once in office, began focusing on service projects that would allow the group to help others.

Kyle:  Pro bono work and community service is really part of the fabric of our family. In addition to our pro bono work as lawyers, we volunteer our time in other ways as well.  We look for opportunities to make our communities better, whether that be within our daughters’ school community where I have been actively involved in fundraising to fill the CPS budget gaps and where Max served on the LSC, within our neighborhood to raise money to improve the parks, or volunteering at our synagogue, which the kids joke is our “family business,” we have always tried to make time to give back. Seeing our daughters develop their own sense of justice and desire to help those less fortunate is the best reflection of that. Our oldest daughter, Sophie, recently became a bat mitzvah and used the occasion to collect school supplies and monetary donations for Cradles to Crayons, which provides new and like new clothes, toys, and school supplies to disadvantaged children across Chicago. She understands the importance of education and that not all kids are lucky enough to have a backpack, notebooks, or school clothes which can negatively impact their self-esteem. After collecting the supplies and donating a portion of her bat mitzvah gifts, she organized a group of friends to go on site and work at the C2C Giving Factory sorting and packing supplies.

Learn more about the PILI Alumni Network»

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