Public Interest Center

Law Public Interest Center

Whatever career path you choose, we encourage you to use your law degree to serve justice.That's the lawyer's calling and, at St. John's Law, you'll find a range of opportunities to answer that call and experience the rewards of making a difference in the world.

Established in 2010, the Public Interest Center supports and builds on St. John's Vincentian mission by sponsoring programs and initiatives that promote lawyers’ professional obligation to serve those most in need. We aim to increase the public interest ethos at the Law School and create and expand public interest opportunities for students.

Here are just some of our offerings:

  • Service Days
  • Brown Bag Lunch Series with Public Interest and Public Service Lawyers
  • Pro Bono Trainings
  • Pro Bono Service Project
  • Public Interest Lecture Series
  • Public Interest Auction
  • Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program
  • Spring Break Service Trips

For more information about the Public Interest Center, please email [email protected]. Want to support our work? It's quick and easy to make a gift online or by contacting Brian Woods at [email protected] or 718-990-5792. Thank you!

We're Here For You!

Whether you want to work in the public interest, seek practical experience helping clients, or give back to your community, the Public Interest Center can offer you guidance, resources, training, and support.

At St. John's Law, we're committed to teaching students the value and reward of pro bono legal work. With that commitment, the Public Interest Center and its affiliates offer students a range of opportunities to gain practical knowledge and skills while advocating for marginalized and underrepresented individuals and communities:

Clinics and Externships
Students gain experience doing real legal work for New Yorkers in need through our 10 in-house and partner clinics:

  • Bankruptcy Advocacy Clinic
  • Bread and Life Immigration Clinic
  • Child Advocacy Clinic
  • Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic
  • Criminal Defense Clinic
  • Domestic Violence Litigation Clinic
  • Economic Justice Clinic
  • Prosecution Clinic
  • Refugee and Immigrant Rights Litigation Clinic
  • Securities Arbitration Clinic

The public interest placements available to students through our externship program include:

  • District Attorney's Offices
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • National Labor Relations Board
  • New York City Law Department
  • New York State Attorney General's Office
  • U.S. Attorney's Offices
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Public Interest Law Students Association
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. 

Orientation Service Day
The Law School incorporates a public service component into our first-year orientation program. Building on the core value of service embodied in St. John's Vincentian mission, as well as the annual University Service Day, we offer incoming 1Ls the opportunity to participate in pro bono service and/or trainings and learn firsthand 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 Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program and other public interest initiatives at St. John's Law. The Auction is a popular event that continues to grow with record attendance by our students, alumni, faculty and staff and with generous support from the business community.

Pro Bono Service Project
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 recognizes graduating students with a Public Service Award 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.

Here are some resources for students looking to explore 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.
PSJD 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.

For more information, please contact Director of Public Interest Programming Ashleigh Kashimawo at [email protected].

Building on St. John’s Vincentian mission of serving those in need, and the ethical obligation of lawyers to promote social justice, the Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program seeks to encourage and facilitate participation by St. John’s law students 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.

Applications are made available in late March through the Public Interest TWEN page. A Selection Committee made up of faculty and administrators chooses the Fellows, with non-voting assistance from student members of the Public Interest Center and/or PILSA.The Selection Committee considers all aspects of candidate’s application as well as the qualifications for consideration.

The number of fellowships available in a given year, and the award amounts, are based on available funds. Much of these funds are raised by the Public Interest Law Students Association through events and initiatives, including the annual Public Interest Auction. Fellowships are also funded by direct alumni donations, by several St. John’s Law academic centers, and through partnerships with programs such as the New York Council of Defense Lawyers Sam Dawson Summer Fellowship and the Catalyst Public Service Fellowships.

For more information, please contact Director of Public Interest Programming Ashleigh Kashimawo at [email protected].

We're pleased to announce our 2021 Summer Public Interest Fellows. Many thanks to the St. John's Law alumni and friends who generously fund these fellowships, giving our students an unmatched opportunity to build knowledge and skills hands on in a range of public service settings. 

Laurel and Howard Borowick Fellowships
Lucy Ryland ’22 (Her Justice)

Ron H. Brown Civil Rights Warrior Fellowships
Julianny Monegro ’23 (Legal Wellness Institute)
Kathryn O’Brien ’22 (Legal Services Hudson Valley)
Alessia Riccio ’22 (Legal Aid Society)
Ridmila Sudasinghe ’22 (NYC Law Department)

Lawrence Byrne Public Interest Fellowship
Sarah Franzetti ‘23 (U.S. Attorney's Office EDNY)

Christopher Noel Cahill Public Interest Fellowships
Tiara Desire-Brisard ’22 (Legal Aid Society)
Emily Fisher ’22 (NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund)
Rashad Moore ’23 (Legal Aid Society)

Catalyst Public Service Fellowships
Isabelle Dudek ’23 (Hon. Stephen Antignani)
Kimberly Henry ’23 (Sonia & Celina Sotomayor Judicial Internship Program/Hon. Jacqueline B. Deane)
Sabrina McDonald ’23 (Hon. Ellen Biben)
Jasmine Moore-Mangone ’23 (Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan)
Kimberly Moyal ’23 (Nassau County Supreme Court)
Olivia Pizzo ’22 (Nassau DA)
Stefanie Williams ’22 (Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan)
Sachika Yadav ’23 (Hon. Cheryl Helfer)

Center for Bankruptcy Studies Public Service Fellowship
Brooke Thompson ’22 (Legal Services NYC Bankruptcy Assistance Project)

Eugenie “Genie” Cesar-Fabian ’04 Fellowship
Emerli Rodriguez ’23 (Brooklyn DA)

John P. Clarke, Esq. Public Interest Fellowship
Julie Varughese ’23 (Staten Island Legal Services)

Dorothy Day Fellowships
Fanta Ba ’23 (NYC Department of Education)
Sara Cardamone ’23 (NYS Division of Human Rights)
Julia Mackey ’23 (NYS Division of Human Rights)

Rose DiMartino Women in Public Service Fellowships
Gabriella Carnazza ’23 (Hon. Philip Goglas)
Katherine Chung ’23 (Hon. Nelson Roman)
Emily Copertino ’23 (Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson)
Bridget Golden ’23 (NYC Office of Labor Relations)
Ilayna Guevrekian (Hon. Conrad D. Singer)
Kelly Keane ’22 (Administration for Children's Services)
Kelly Madigan ’23 (Appellate Division, Second Department)
Ramona Miller ’23 (Hon. Tracy Catapano-Fox)
Alessia Nestico ’22 (Legal Aid Society)
Miranda Princi ’23 (Hon. Clifton Nembhard)
Abigail Sloan ’23 (Catholic Charities)
Valerie Timmerman ’22 (Nassau DA)

Erica B. Fine, Esq. Public Interest Fellowships
William Bird ’22 (Nassau DA)
Jose Panbehchi ’22 (Legal Aid Society)
Christine Raso ’23 (NJ Attorney General)
Abigail Ziegler ’22 (NYS Department of Education)
Amanda Zoda ’23 (Brooklyn DA)

Gunther Family Summer Public Interest Fellowships
Alex Araya ’22 (Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem)
Jenna Codignotto ’22 (Brooklyn Defender Services)

IP Law Canter Public Service Fellowship
Ronald Reid ’23 (Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts)

Abhay Kotwal '15 Public Service Fellowship
Charles McCracken ’23 (Legal Aid Society)

Mike Levenstein Public Interest Fellowship
Julia Haghighi ’22 (Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem)

Hon. Guy J. Mangano ADR Fellowship
Matthew Kipnis ’22 (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority)

The Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law Summer Public Service Fellowship
Sara Leston ’23 (Queens Housing Court)

New York Council of Defense Lawyers Sam Dawson Summer Fellowship
Bailey Waltman ‘22 (Legal Aid Society)

Palladium Equity Partners Public Interest Fellowship
Elijah Newcomb ’23 (Monroe County Public Defender)

Rachael R. Paras Public Interest Fellowship
Julien Gutierrez ’22 (Legal Aid Society)

Olive Reedy Trust Fellowships
Gissel Marquez ’23 (LatinoJustice PRLDEF)
Joseph Mottola ’23 (Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School)

St. John’s Law Public Interest Fellowships
Michael Allain ’23 (U.S. Attorney's Office EDNY)
Timothy Aughavin ’23 (Brooklyn DA)
Noel Ball ’22 (Attorney General's Office California Department of Justice)
Carly Berntsen ’23 (Staten Island DA)
Bida Chen ’23 (Catholic Charities)
Chelsea Donohue ’22 (NYC Department of Environmental Protection)
Christina Kort ’23 (Suffolk DA)
Taylor Lopa ’22 (Staten Island DA)
Madelyn Starks ’23 (Center for Family Representation)

The St. John's Law curriculum includes the following opportunities for students to build practical knowledge and skills hands on while advocating for marginalized and underrepresented individuals and communities:

Pro Bono Scholars Program
The Law School's Pro Bono Scholars Program allows students to devote their last semester of study to performing pro bono service for low-income communities. Pro Bono Scholars spend 12 weeks working full time in a St. John's Law clinic and undertake a 14-credit academic component. They also have the opportunity to develop quality mentoring relationships and receive invaluable practical training under the supervision of a faculty member.

As an additional benefit, St. John's Pro Bono Scholars can take the New York bar examination in February of their final year of study, before they graduate. Upon successful completion of the program and any other graduation requirements, Pro Bono Scholars will be awarded their J.D. degree and will be admitted to practice as soon as practicable after graduation. Therefore, by participating in the program, they can accelerate the pace at which they can enter the legal market as licensed attorneys. The first of its kind in the country, the program is designed to reinforce the legal profession’s commitment to, and St. John's Vincentian mission of fostering, a culture of service while generating countless hours of pro bono work each year on behalf of New York's most vulnerable citizens.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Class rank in top 60% at time of application and before starting senior year.
  • May not serve on executive board of journals, Moot Court, PTAI, or DRS
  • Practicum students are not eligible
  • On track to complete all degree requirements—except for credits and APWR—prior to final semester

To Apply
Interested applicants should email Senior Director of Student Services Eric Shannon at [email protected] before the end of their 2L year.

Graduates from the Classes of 2016—2020 are eligible to apply for the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). The LRAP application can be found here. For more information, please contact Director of Public Interest Programming Ashleigh Kashimawo at [email protected].