Facts About Public Interest Activity
at the Washington College of Law
- Typically 12-14% of WCL graduates accept postgraduate public interest employment, almost twice the national average.
- 61 students received $4,000 grants to pursue summer public interest internships during the summer of 2013 from the Equal Justice Foundation.
- 104 alumni received loan repayment assistance during the 2013 calendar year for their commitment to working in the public interest or government sectors.
- 114 members of the Class of 2013 completed the Pro Bono Honors Pledge, performing over 29,000 hours of pro bono work. The Pro Bono Excellence award went to Erica Tokar, who completed the greatest number of pro bono hours (1,047).
- 32 students traveled to New Orleans during the 2012-13 Winter Break to assist with post-Katrina legal and community service projects. 15 students also traveled domestically and abroad to assist with a wide range of public interest projects that focused on promoting and protecting LGBTI rights in El Salvador, combatting statelessness and racial discrimination in Dominican Replublic, and supporting the Sovereign Work of the Navajo Nation.
David Steib, Esq.
Office of Public Interest
American University Washington College of Law
4801 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Suite 122
Washington, DC 20016
Phone: 202-274-4099 Fax: 202-274-4096
Many WCL alumni have created their own nonprofit organizations. Some of these include:
- Tahirih Justice Center, Falls Church, VA
- Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Zacatecas, Mexico
- Mentoring ToDAY (To Develop the Aspirations of Youth), Washington, DC
Examples of WCL alumni placement at Public Interest/Public Service organizations and agencies:
- Bronx District Attorney's Office
- Center for Justice and International Law
- Florida Public Service Commission
- International Intellectual Property Institute
- Los Angeles County Public Defender
- Nat'l Association of the Deaf Law Center
- New York City Law Department
- Pennsylvania Department of Education
- U.S. Agency for International Development
- U.S. Dept. of Justice Immigration Court
- Whitman-Walker Clinic
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As the first law school founded by women, the goals of advancing the causes of underprivileged and underrepresented people were at the core of American University Washington College of Law from its start in 1896.
This commitment continues today, with the Office of Public Interest (OPI), which seeks to educate law students about their professional responsibility to perform public service work as practicing attorneys, fostering a lifelong commitment to public service. OPI provides a variety of services for students pursuing public interest and pro bono activities during law school and after graduation. Most importantly, the OPI highlights students achievement in public interest and pro bono activities and provides recognition for these accomplishments.
WCL's public interest programs are among the strongest in the nation. This vibrant activist community offers unique opportunities for law students to gain legal experience through a broad range of pro bono and public service programs such as:
- Renowned Clinical Program
- Full-Tuition Public Interest/Public Service (PIPS) Scholarship
- Equal Justice Foundation Fellowships for summer internships
- Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Teaching Fellowships Project
- Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance Program (PILRAP)
- Public Interest Roundtable Series
- IMBY (In My Back Yard) Public Service Day
- Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program
- Supervised Externship Program
- More than a dozen public interest centers and publications
- United Nations Committee Against Torture Project
- Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property
- Individualized public interest career development counseling through the Office of Career and Professional Development
Students and Alumni
Students arrive at WCL with a variety of backgrounds and interests including: environmental activism, women's rights, civil rights, international human rights, labor and employment, criminal justice, juvenile justice, land use, and war crimes tribunals. Upon graduating from WCL they continue to work on social justice issues as nonprofit staff attorneys, policy advocates, government attorneys and litigators in public interest law firms.
WCL graduates have been very successful and securing prestigious fellowships. Since 1998, graduates have received more than 30 postgraduate public interest legal fellowships with programs such as: Skadden, Equal Justice Works, Echoing Green, Soros, Women's Law and Public Policy, and New Voices. The Assistant Director & Public Interest Specialist in the Office of Career and Professional Development provides career seeking resources and counseling for students planning public interest or government careers.
If you are a current student or alumni that would like to stay connected to the Office of Public Interest and the public interest community at WCL "Like" our Facebook page and join the WCL Public Interest Students and Alumni Group on LinkedIn. In addition, please consider subscribing to the Public Interest Express (PIE). Each week, the Office of Public Interest sends out a newsletter that contains information about public interest events, pro bono opportunities, student opportunities, postgraduate jobs and more. Only one email is sent each week, so don’t worry, OPI won’t clog your inbox.
Research and Networking Opportunities
At WCL students have the opportunity to network with practitioners while participating in many public interest activities and programs. Students conduct research as faculty Dean's Fellows, and volunteer with the War Crimes Research Office, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Innocence Project, and the Health Law Project, among other programs. In addition, there are many domestic and international for-credit opportunities through the Clinical Program, externships and the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project. Every year WCL is one of the host schools for the Greater Washington, D.C./Baltimore Public Service Career Fair. The fair offers law students an opportunity to lean about public interest organizations and government agencies and to interview for summer and post-graduate positions. Each spring the Externship Program coordinates an Externship Fair with typically more than 130 employers and 400 students participating. The Externship Program places hundreds of upper-level students each year in externships with government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, courts and law firms engaged in pro bono work.