December 02, 2011
Vincentian mission that is the heart of a St. John’s education,
the Law School is committed to providing students with
opportunities to experience first-hand the lawyer’s calling to
better the lives of people in need. These opportunities come
through student participation in courses, clinics, externships,
internships and programs administered by the Law School’s
Public Interest Center, including the Pro Bono Service Project
and the Public Interest Fellowship Program.
Public Interest Committee is the student organization dedicated
to raising awareness of, and support for, the Law School’s public
interest initiatives. Law School Communications Director Lori Herz
talked to Public Interest Committee Vice President Mary Vitale ’12
about the organization, her role in it and its current
LH: What is the goal of the Public Interest
MV: The Public Interest Committee aims to promote students’
understanding of, and commitment to, public interest work. We do
this in several ways: Through fundraising for the Public Interest
Fellowship Program that enables students to work at public interest
organizations during the summer; by hosting discussions with
leaders in the field; by sponsoring public interest events; and by
working with the Law School to offer students pro bono
LH: How and why did you get involved in this student
MV: I knew I wanted to pursue a career in public interest
law when I applied to law school. As 1L at St. John’s, I became
very involved in the Public Interest Committee by volunteering at
its fundraising events, including the annual Public Interest
Auction. I was fortunate to receive an invitation to join the
organization’s Executive Board as a 2L.
LH: Do you plan to work in the public interest after law
school? If so, where do you hope to work?
MV: I hope to work in a prosecutor's office when I graduate this
spring. I cannot think of a purer form of public interest than
representing the interests of justice and protecting the rights of
victims. I am also interested in working with child advocacy
organizations later in my career.
LH: Can you tell me about the events and activities the
Public Interest Committee has lined up for the 2011-12 academic
year and what you hope to achieve by hosting them?
MV: Our biggest event of the year will be the Public Interest
Auction. Now in its 16th year, this is a very special and fun event
that raises funds for the Public Interest Fellowship Program. Last
year’s Auction was our most successful to date, raising over
$100,000. Our recent Fright Night fundraiser generated
approximately $2,500 to support the Public Interest Committee’s
work and to fund the Public Interest Fellowship Program. We are
also exploring the possibility of hosting a volunteer trip over
LH: What advice would you give a current or prospective St.
John’s law student who is interested in exploring the Law School's
public interest offerings and a career in the public
MV: My advice would be to just get involved. Volunteer at pro
bono organizations, attend public interest events at the Law
School and outside and help out at Public Interest Committee
fundraisers and events throughout the year. In addition to
providing service to those in need, getting involved in public
interest is single-handedly the best way to get real world legal
experience as a law student.
LH: Mary, thank you for taking the time to talk about the
Law School’s Public Interest Committee.