Ben Fils

Hometown: Chelsea and Everett, Massachusetts

Undergraduate School: Northeastern University

Job: Senior Coordinator of Student Accountability, University of Arizona

Student Groups

I participated in the School Discipline Advocacy Service (SDAS) throughout law school. SDAS began as a Temple Law student group, but has grown into a coalition of law students from Temple, Penn, and Drexel law schools who serve as advocates for Philadelphia public schoolchildren facing harsh discipline. In many cases, children are being disciplined for infractions that represented normal developmental challenges or were manifestations of underlying disabilities.

By serving SDAS in multiple roles, including a leadership position, I was able to put my legal training in mediation, negotiation, trial advocacy, and project management to good use in support of these children. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I’m proud to say that we have supported more than 100 underserved students and their families, connecting them to much-needed services.

I also participated in the Black Law Students Association and served as the mentoring chair in my second year. That gave me an opportunity to connect new first-year students to peers and professionals who have been in their shoes and gone on to find success. I have benefited from the lasting friendships I’ve formed with mentees, and from the chance to offer them much-needed support during one of the most challenging periods of law school. I also contributed to the National Lawyers Guild Expungement Program and several other projects that provided much-needed services to overlooked and underserved Philadelphians.

Volunteer Service

I volunteered on a number of different projects while at Temple Law. I knew I wanted to work with underserved Philadelphians when I chose Temple Law, so I sought out opportunities to that effect. My first volunteer service was with the Pennsylvania Voting Rights Coalition during the 2012 election, when Voter ID issues had the potential to disproportionately affect the elderly and minorities. I organized canvassing opportunities for law students to combat the misinformation that was being spread about Voter ID.

I also volunteered with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongfully incarcerated, in the spring semester of my first year. The work was challenging but had the potential to make a profound difference in the integrity of our criminal justice system. Knowing that my work could support the reunion of a wrongfully convicted person with his or her family was inspiring. I have tremendous respect and admiration for the Legal Director, Marissa Boyers Bluestine, and her entire team at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

The project that has meant the most to me is my work with the School Discipline Advocacy Service (SDAS), because it is largely student-run and student-led, giving law students the opportunity to fill a gap in services and put our vision into practice. The group has grown its advocate base and the number of public school students it has served each year. I am confident that the dozens of students we have helped keep in school will be future leaders of this great community.

Favorite memory

One of my favorite memories is from the end of my Constitutional Law class. Professor David Kairys told the class about a former student who didn’t follow the traditional path, but instead carved out his own successful niche by offering legal assistance to an underserved and stigmatized group. It was a lesson in Public Interest lawyering that many law students never have the opportunity to hear. As an aspiring public interest attorney, his story resonated with me and gave me a sense of reassurance in the path that I was on.

Carrying Temple Forward

Temple Law fostered a deeper commitment to public interest issues and community in me, and I will carry that with me as I move forward in my career. I believe that what I learned here will continue to guide the work that I do, whether as part of my full-time job or through pro bono service.

Advice for Future Owls

I came to law school with the expectation that it would be a very competitive and intimidating environment, where students would be difficult to befriend and faculty would be difficult to engage. I could not have been more mistaken.

Temple has been a very positive environment where student collaboration is encouraged. Professors have open door policies and often share the same level of excitement that students have when they hear about our successes and innovative ideas. Additionally, there are a number of formal and informal programs in place to support students in several ways, among them the Academic Core Enrichment (ACE) Program, the many services provided by the Dean for Student’s Office, and peer mentoring programs through the Women’s Law Caucus, Black Law Students Association, and similar groups. I would encourage every future Temple Law student to take advantage of these support services.