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Skadden Fellow seeks to better know New Orleans

January 27, 2014

Sam Brandao (L ’12) has received a prestigious Skadden Foundation Fellowship to pursue public interest work in New Orleans.

Sam Brandao (L ’12) has received a prestigious Skadden Foundation Fellowship to pursue public interest work in New Orleans.

After growing up in New Orleans, Sam Brandao (L ’12) left for college at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., but he was determined to return to his home city. Now, as the recipient of a prestigious Skadden Foundation Fellowship, the Tulane Law School graduate has a chance to work on understanding — and trying to solve — some of the city’s chronic problems.

It was while teaching high school English at the Academy of the Sacred Heart that Brandao grew increasingly interested in New Orleans’ municipal disarray and post-Katrina efforts to clean up the government along with the physical damage, he said. Law school at Tulane, he concluded, could help equip him with “tools to see why the city is the way it is and how it could be improved.”

Brandao, one of 28 fellows chosen for a fiercely competitive two-year Skadden fellowship that starts in the fall, plans to work with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, helping disabled clients who face fair-housing problems and tackling broader issues of protecting equal access to federally subsidized housing. An estimated one-third of the 18,000 residents who receive vouchers through the Housing Authority of New Orleans have a disability, he said.

Brandao said he hopes he’ll gain insight into perspective of HANO caseworkers, be able to identify bottlenecks in the process and learn more about what disabled residents face in the city’s healthcare system.

“I’m not sure two years is long enough … to really get to the root of even a small slice of the problems,” he said.

The Skadden fellowships were started in 1988 by the New York-based firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The awards, aimed at supporting an elite corps of top law school graduates as they pursue public interest law, are highly competitive: Harvard graduates have won the most (131), followed by NYU (80), Yale (69), Stanford (57) and Columbia (42).

Tulane Law Professor Stacy Seicshnaydre (L ’92), who was a Skadden Fellow in 1993-95, urged Brandao to apply after working with him through the civil litigation clinic. Brandao also was articles editor of the Tulane Law Review, worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and won the John Minor Wisdom Award. After graduating, he clerked for U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon (L ’62) and will complete a clerkship with Judge Jacques Wiener (L ’61) on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year.

“Skadden invests in law graduates who combine sterling credentials with a passion for public interest law,” Seicshnaydre said. “Sam came to Tulane with a desire to pursue a public interest career; it is a thrill to see him realize that goal.”


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