Taking the Initiative

Vanderbilt's new Public Service Initiative enables recent graduates to gain work experience while working in the public interest.


Aurelia Schultz
Aurelia Schultz '09
Staff Attorney
Creative Commons
San Francisco, California

Aurelia Schultz first heard of Creative Commons, a non-profit advocacy organization that offers individual authors, artists, photographers and other creators ways to protect and share their intellectual property, during her first year at Vanderbilt. She immediately realized that working there "would be my dream job."

Today, Schultz is living her dream as a full-time staff attorney with Creative Commons, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that develops copyright licenses and offers legal and technical tools to facilitate sharing among authors, artists, musicians and others while protecting their intellectual property rights. "We create ways that creators can determine how others can use their works," Schultz said. "The creator can put a little symbol on their work, and that tells other people how they have permission to use it. We've recently expanded our focus so that we're also looking at patents."

Schultz achieved her goal with the help of a Google Policy Fellowship and Vanderbilt's Public Service Initiative. She was spending a semester as an intern with the Nigerian Copyright Commission in Lagos, a placement she garnered with help from Professor Mike Newton, when she discovered that Google had launched a summer Policy Fellowship program. Among the organizations where Google hoped to place future Fellows was Creative Commons, and Schultz promptly applied to serve as a summer fellow with the organization. She was selected from a pool of over 600 applicants to fill the single slot for a Google Policy Fellow at Creative Commons; her summer 2009 class of 14 Google Policy Fellows was only the program's second. "I think my experience working with the Nigerian Copyright Commission helped me get the Google Policy Fellowship at Creative Commons," she said. "In Nigeria, one of the biggest problems they're facing is that they don't have enough attorneys familiar with intellectual property law. During my semester there, I did some comparative studies, helped draft an Intellectual Property curriculum, and developed some activities for Copyright Clubs in high schools."

To serve as a Google Policy Fellow, Schultz had to delay taking the bar exam. "Google Policy Fellowships are awarded only to students, and only for one summer," she said, "so I had to start the fellowship immediately after I graduated from law school." When the fellowship ended, she faced a gap of four months before her review classes for the California bar exam would begin in January. "That's when the Public Service Initiative became incredibly helpful," Schultz said. "I approached my supervisor at Creative Commons and proposed that I keep doing the work I was doing through the end of the year, since Vanderbilt would pay me a support stipend," she said.

After Schultz left Creative Commons at the end of December to study full-time for the bar, she remained on the organization's email list as a resource for the legal work she had done. After the bar exam, Schultz again found herself in a holding pattern while awaiting the exam results. "My supervisor at Creative Commons invited me to come back as a volunteer with a small stipend," she says. "After a month, they switched me to part-time hourly. In July I was brought on full time. One of the reasons it was gradual is that my supervisor and I both wanted to make sure that there was really a need for the position, that we weren't just creating a job for me. As we kept looking around and exploring the different areas Creative Commons focuses on, they concluded they definitely needed someone in my position, and it was a perfect fit for me."

Three years before, Schultz also found Vanderbilt Law School a perfect fit, much to her surprise. "I applied to law schools from Zambia, where I was serving in the Peace Corps," she recalled. "I didn't have much internet access or other resources, so I applied to the schools that sent me brochures. One of those was Vanderbilt, which I had never even heard of. By the time I returned to the States, I had another school picked out and was ready to fill out the paperwork. But my dad insisted that I visit some of the other schools where I had been admitted. I was not thrilled. One day, I'm in a mud hut in Africa; two weeks later I'm staring out the window of my dad's car, barreling down I-65 to the South. I went to Nashville thinking it would be a one-time trip to humor my father; I left knowing Nashville would soon be home. I liked the law school immediately."

Schultz entered law school certain she was interested in studying and practicing international intellectual property law, and during her second and third years, she took several classes from international intellectual property scholar Daniel Gervais, as well as noted practitioner Mark Patterson's patent class and Judge Kent Jordan's trademark class. "I got a really good preparation for the work I'm doing now," she said. "And I also got my dream job right out of law school."

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