Denver Bar Association
March 2010
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The Public Interest Orchestra: A Student’s Perspective

by Gracie Chisholm

I was recently at the symphony, watching a world-renowned violinist perform with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra as a guest soloist. Her execution seemed flawless — as if Prokofiev had her in mind when composing the piece. As far as compositions go, however, I preferred the second half of the performance: Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

As the Third Movement came to a close, I opened my eyes to better observe the violin bows uniformly come to a statuesque halt and simultaneously recalled the vigor of the guest violinist. She was nowhere in sight — and with good reason: Beethoven’s masterpiece did not include a violin solo, and guest artists do not travel thousands of miles to blend into the body of an orchestra.

But what if she had decided to combine the voice of her 286-year-old violin with those of the rest? Whether or not her particular musical genius might have been decipherable, I imagine her presence would have further inspired the communal artistic energy of our Rocky Mountain orchestra.

In the midst of such musical musings, my mind turned to my involvement in public interest law thus far, as a second-year law student.

I commenced my law school studies at the University of Denver with five years of experience in nonprofit human rights work, overseas and nationally. I have since filled my free time with myriad of public interest activities.

For example, I serve as a co-chair on a committee that has worked diligently to organize the 15th Annual Public Interest Law Group Auction. I cannot help but wonder how my interests will develop into a career. However the transformation takes place, it is sure to be influenced by the sources of inspiration that cross my path during my time at DU.

The sounds of inspiration are played in different keys for different people. Beethoven’s 7th Symphony reminded me that some sources of inspiration are universal. Just as "no man is an island," no lawyer can gracefully navigate his or her career without the assistance of more experienced lawyers. This genre of inspiration has many names: mentorship, counsel, discipleship, apprenticeship and guidance.

Many "guest soloists" have inspired me as a soon-to-be attorney. A visiting human rights lecturer described the fight against impunity for torturers. An internship supervisor patiently explained immigration laws each time I found myself confused. A handful of DU professors donated a portion of their salaries to the Public Interest Law Group. A family law attorney gave a tour of the space in which she provides free legal aid once a month.

These individual influences inspire my efforts to become a public interest attorney. As I watch attorneys contribute to noble causes, their actions remind me that solo performances are not the only source of beauty.

I volunteered for the position as an auction committee co-chair because I found last year’s event to be unexpectedly entertaining and surprisingly successful. Who, after all, doesn’t enjoy diversion for the sake of a good cause?

Many amazing donations have been gathered. We have upstanding table sponsors and the details of the program are set. As these elements fall into place on March 4, we will be able to focus on the more profound yet subtler side of event planning: the generation of inspiration. When attorneys and students alike attend events like this one — organized for the betterment of the profession and society — inspiration is sure to be generated. For this reason, I encourage any attorney or professional to consider attending the 15th Annual PILG Auction and other similar events.

Solo performances improve a student’s understanding of the legal profession, but sitting side-by-side with lawyers who are supporting a similar cause inspires them to improve the legal profession.

The 15th Annual Public Interest Law Group Auction is on Thursday, March 4, at the Cable Center at the University of Denver. Individual tickets are $40 and can be purchased at Contact Gracie Chisholm for details: The ticket price includes a silent and live auction, a full dinner and music by Flock of Beagles, Denver’s premier 80s cover band.

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