Helping Those In Need
By Shira J.
Some law students say their plan is to work for a big corporate
law firm just long enough to pay off their school loans and build
up some savings before returning to the do-gooding of their
idealistic student days. Many never quite get back on that path,
but Vera Scanlon ’90 has made helping the
underprivileged a priority from the start.
Scanlon, who grew up in Brooklyn, is an associate at Beldock,
Levine and Hoffman, a small New York City law firm. She currently
is working on a pro bono case involving City University of
New York students. Following September 11, with closer scrutiny
being given to immigration status, CUNY started charging
undocumented students out-of-state tuition, nearly twice the amount
paid by New York state residents. Since early December, Scanlon and
her firm have been working to reverse that decision, which affects
an estimated 2,000 CUNY students. The case is expected to be heard
on appeal this summer.
It’s not the first time that Scanlon has worked on
immigration cases. She also worked with immigrants while at law
school at Yale. “You get to meet a broad range of interesting
people,” she says. “The issues are more cutting edge
[than corporate work], and the questions are intellectual and
In her usual work, Scanlon handles commercial litigation and
plaintiffs’ cases that involve discrimination.
At Columbia, Scanlon majored in history and hosted a weekly
Irish music program on WKCR. She also volunteered at a local soup
kitchen. Before law school, Scanlon worked for two years as a
paralegal in Washington, D.C., and with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps
in Louisiana. After Yale, she worked at the law firm Hughes,
Hubbard & Reed for two and a half years, then clerked for
judges in Brooklyn and Puerto Rico before joining Beldock last
“I feel I was lucky to go to Columbia, and I had a
scholarship to go to high school,” Scanlon says.
“I’ve had all of these opportunities, and I feel you
should give back.”