Public Interest Center

Whatever career path you choose, we encourage you to use your law degree to serve justice. That is the lawyer's calling and, at st. John's law, you'll find a range of opportunities to answer the call and to 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 offering programs and initiatives that promote lawyers’ professional obligation to serve those most in need. The Center aims to increase the public interest ethos at the law school and create and expand public interest opportunities for students.

Here are just some of the exciting programs and initiatives the Center oversees:

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

Please contact us for more information on the Public Interest Center, our programs and other Center initiatives. To support the Center and its initiatives, please visit the Law School's online giving page or contact the Office of Alumni Relations and Development at [email protected] or 718-990-5792.

We welcome your inquires. Please contact the Public Interest Center at St. John's School of Law via [email protected]

Welcome to the Public Interest Center

Building on St. John’s Vincentian mission of serving those in need, the Center recognizes the ethical obligation of lawyers to promote social justice. The Center is charged with coordinating and expanding the Law School’s Pro Bono Service Project, the Public Interest Auction, the Public Interest Summer Fellowship Program and others. We develop and host programs on public interest law, counsel students on public interest opportunities and generally foster a view of public interest as intrinsic to the study and practice of law.

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.

This website offers information about our programs, curriculum and student opportunities. You will also find a resources page where we share information on pro bono work and public interest law.

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.

Student Resources

The following are helpful and informative resources for students interested in public interest law.

http://www.probono.net/ny/
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.org
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.

http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/probono/
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.

http://www.lawhelp.org/ny/
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.

http://www.nlada.org/
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.

http://www.equaljusticeworks.org/
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. 

Pro Bono Scholars Program
The Public Interest Center oversees the Pro Bono Scholars Program at St. John's Law. The program allows students to devote their last semester of study to performing pro bono service for the poor. Pro Bono Scholars spend 12 weeks working full time in a pro bono placement, while also completing a 14-credit academic component at St. John's Law. They have the opportunity to develop quality mentoring relationships and receive invaluable practical training under the supervision of both a practicing lawyer and 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
  • No more than 4 credits of clinics, externships, or Street Law prior to final semester (selection committee may waive up to 8 credits)
  • 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 contact Ann Goldweber or Kimathi Gordon-Somers before the end of their 2L year to be eligible.

Clinics and Externships
The Public Interest Center also works closely with the Law School’s Clinical Programs and Career Development Office to offer clincs and externships that give students an opportunity to serve the public interest. Students build practical skills hands on 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

Contact Us 

Please contact us at [email protected] to learn more about the Public Interest Center's curricular offerings.

Summer Fellowship Program

Building on St. John’s Vincentian mission of serving those in need, and the ethical obligation of lawyers to promote social justice, the 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.

Definition of Public Interest for Purposes of Public Interest Fellowship: An eligible “public interest” employer includes an entity –- public (i.e. government) or private -- that provides legal assistance and/or legal advocacy for low-income, underserved, or disenfranchised people and communities.  Judicial internships do not qualify.  Additional funding is available through St. John’s Law for judicial placements through a separate application.

Applications are made available in late March through the Public Interest TWEN page. The Selection Committee is composed of students [comprised of either representatives of Public Interest Center Student Leadership Board and/or the SBA], and professors/administrators.  The Committee Chair, who will only cast a vote in the event of a tie, will be the Assistant Dean for Students.   The amount of the stipend and the number of Fellowships awarded will be determined by the Selection Committee based on the available funds.