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Helping Those In Need
By Shira J. Boss '93

Vera Scanlon
Vera Scanlon ’90

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 legally interesting.”

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 November.

“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.”

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