The Public Interest Center offers a range of interesting and engaging programs for students, faculty and allumni throughout the year. Anchoring the Center's offerings are the following annual programs:
Orientation Service Day
The Law School incorporates a public service component into its orientation program for first-year students. Building on the core value of service embodied in St. John's Vincentian mission, as well as the annual University Service Day, the Law School has established its own service day program. Through Orientation Service Day coordinated by the Center, incoming 1Ls students have the opportunity to participate in pro bono service and learn first hand about the Law School’s commitment to public interest. In this experiential learning forum, students may work with children and the elderly, refurbish building sites and address hunger and homelessness issues. They also receive training in various pro bono opportunities.
Pro Bono Trainings
Trainings for various pro bono service project opportunities are scheduled throughout the year in the areas of consumer debt, housing court resolution, family law and domestic violence, public benefits, education law, etc.
Public Interest Auction
Teaming with PILSA, the Center hosts the annual Public Interest Auction to raise funds for the Law School's Public Interest Fellowship Program and other public interest initiatives for students. The Auction is a popular event that continues to grow with record attendance from the Law School's students, alumni, faculty and staff and with the generous support of the business community.
Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program
Building on St. John’s Vincentian mission of serving those in need, as well as the ethical obligation of lawyers to promote social justice, the Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program at St. John's School of Law seeks to encourage and facilitate St. John’s law students’ participation in the delivery of legal services and/or legal advocacy to traditionally underrepresented clients, groups, or interests.
Fellowships are awarded to qualified students for full-time summer positions with non-profit organizations and governmental agencies representing traditionally underrepresented clients, groups or interests. For purposes of the Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program, the definition of “public interest” is any entity ― public (i.e. government) or private ― that provides legal assistance and/or legal advocacy for low-income, underserved, or disenfranchised people and communities.
While the typical fellowship award is around $5000, the number of fellowships available in a given year and the award amounts are based on available funds. These funds are raised by the Public Interest Law Students Association through events and initiatives, including the annual Public Interest Auction.
Pro Bono Service Project
The Public Interest Center offers students a range of opportunities to explore, experience and practice public interest law. We are also committed to teaching students the value and reward of pro bono work. In 2003, the Law School inaugurated the Pro Bono Service Project in furtherance of the University's Vincentian Mission and the principle that law students and members of the legal profession have a special obligation to assist in providing quality legal services to unrepresented communities, groups or interests. The Pro Bono Service Project will recognize students with a Public Service Award which will be given at Commencement to students who have completed at least 500 hours of qualifying service. Students who demonstrate an exceptional level of pro bono service, including dedicated service to specific pro bono projects (including student run programs), will be eligible for additional awards at Commencement.
Loan Replacement Assistance Program (LRAP)
LRAP provides financial assistance to qualified Law School graduates working in public interest positions by paying a portion of their law school educational loan debt. Qualifying employment consists of full-time employment with a non-profit organization. In keeping with the St. John’s Vincentian mission of service to others, the Program seeks to enable graduates to select their employment without being precluded from public interest and government options because of financial hardship. It also aims to encourage St. John’s law graduates to choose public interest and public service careers. The Law School recognizes that the legal community has a responsibility to provide services to people who cannot otherwise afford representation. Funding for LRAP has been made available through the generosity of Law School alumni and benefactors. For more information and to apply for benefits under LRAP, please complete and submit the application form.
The following are helpful and informative resources for students interested in public interest law.
This site contains helpful resources for probono & legal services attorneys, law professionals and law students to assist in your representation of low income or disadvantaged clients.
PJSD is the online resource connecting public interest law job-seekers with their ideal opportunities in the public interest arena, in government, at law schools and around the globe.
The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service is the national source of information, resources and assistance to support, facilitate and expand the delivery of pro bono legal assistance. The Standing Committee and its project, the ABA Center for Pro Bono, encourage lawyers to do pro bono work and help them connect with opportunities that meet their needs. The programs, projects and services help pro bono programs, advocates and policymakers address the legal needs of the poor.
Find free legal aid in New York and information about legal rights, courts and more. A good resource for researching pro bono and public interest placements.
NLADA is the nation's leading advocate for front-line attorneys and other equal justice professionals - those who make a difference in the lives of low-income clients and their families and communities.
Equal Justice Works aims to ensure a sustainable pipeline of talented and trained lawyers involved in public service. The organization provides a continuum of programs that begin with incoming law school students and extend into later careers in the profession.
Affiliated Student Organization
The Public Interest Center affiliates with the Public Interest Law Students Association (PILSA). Part of the Law School's Student Bar Association (SBA), PILSA is made up of law students dedicated to supporting and enhancing the Law School's public interest endeavors. In the past, PILSA has worked with various public interest organizations, the Center, the Law School Administration and the Career Development Office to coordinate on-campus activities, including panel presentations, fundraising and social events. Additionally, PILSA encourages students' involvement in off-campus public interest organizations where they can assist, under practice order or attorney supervision, in helping real world clients.