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Current Issue : 2008 Fall

Working for the Greater Good

Brooklyn Law School's Public Service Law Program helps every student who wants to explore public service attain that experience, whether through an externship, an internship, a clinic, fellowship or a full-time job after graduating. "The Law School has created one of the nation's leading programs to prepare lawyers for public service, and we support it generously," said Dean Joan G. Wexler. "We were pioneers in the field and we have stayed ahead of the curve throughout our history."

Attracting students from around the world, the Law School offers rigorous coursework and clinical experiences, generous funding, and the opportunity to take part in a community of influential scholars, practitioners, advocates and activists. More than three-quarters of all graduates have participated in the Law School's Public Service Law Program, and approximately 20 percent of all graduates choose public interest law or government careers. While not all of the students who participate in the program pursue full-time careers in public service law, many gain a stronger commitment to working in an ongoing way for the greater good.

All Interests Funded

Law students compete vigorously for summer externships at nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Beyond their resume-building benefits, the jobs can offer intense learning and even life-changing experiences. In their evaluations of public service placements, students report that they are immersed, almost from day one, in client contact, research and problem-solving tasks with supervision by dedicated, savvy attorneys.

For example, at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, students were given a significant amount of responsibility for workers' wage-and-hour claims, and immigration and deportation issues. At Brooklyn Legal Services, students analyzed complex issues regarding land trusts and restrictive covenants on behalf of community-based organizations. At inMotion, they helped represent low-income women in matrimonial and other family matters. At the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles, they assisted in the representation of abused or neglected children. And at the National Labor Relations Board, they conducted investigations of charges of unfair labor practices. Students have also worked at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General's Office, South Brooklyn Legal Services, and the National Center for Economic Justice, among hundreds of other organizations.

Last academic year, approximately 400 students were able to take advantage of these opportunities even though many employers often do not have the budget to pay law students. The Law School provided a public service grant of up to $5,000 to every student who wanted to work at a government agency or qualifying nonprofit organization engaged in public interest legal work. "We will not turn down any student who wants a public service externship," said Dean Wexler.

This guarantee applies whether or not a student is eligible to receive federal work-study grants. Some students are funded entirely by Brooklyn Law School. In other instances, work-study funds pay a portion of the student's grant, and either Brooklyn Law School or the employer pays the rest. All students are eligible to apply for a grant. "Students view working in public service as a valuable part of their education and these grants allow them to do so," said Director of Financial Aid Nancy Zahzam. Last year alone, the Law School gave over $250,000 of its own funds for these grants.

GRANTS AND FELLOWSHIPS

Public Service Grants Program

About 400 students each year receive public service grants.

Fellowships

About 50 students each year are awarded paid fellowships through:

  • The Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program
  • Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI)
  • International Human Rights Fellowship Program
  • International Law Society Global Justice Fellowship Program
Jonathan Sabin '10 Jonathan Sabin '10 public service grant Judicial Internship with Hon. Richard J. Sullivan, U.S. District Court (SDNY) "I was given an incredible amount of responsibility in drafting an opinion on a federal habeas petition. I also learned by observing court proceedings and discussing cases with the judge and the clerks. Talk about making a difference in the world — they do it in a way that's very inspiring." A journalist and teacher before law school, Sabin is a staff member of the Journal of Law and Policy, participates in the Moot Court Honor Society, and recently won a CALI award, among other honors. He will be a 2009 summer associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.