Public Interest: Programs

"Our law school is uniquely dedicated to creating and sustaining an educational culture that emphasizes the power of the law as a tool to achieve social justice and basic human rights. The recognition of these responsibilities is found in our commitment to pro bono and public service."

- Dean Claudio Grossman

Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program

Through the Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program, American University Washington College of Law students can pledge to complete 75 hours of pro bono and community service work at organizations working on behalf of underprivileged and underrepresented populations. At least 50 hours of the pro bono work completed must be with an organization engaged primarily in law-related or legal work. However, students may complete up to 25 of their 75 hours in non-legal community service work, enabling first-year law students to participate in the program immediately. Students successfully completing the program are honored at graduation and during the student public service awards ceremony held each spring. Currently, over 180 WCL students are participating in the Pledge.

Over sixty members of the class of 2008 completed the Pro Bono Honors Pledge performing over 15,643 hours of pro bono work - an average of 260 hours per participant. This is the greatest amount of pro bono work of any WCL class to date. The Pro Bono Excellence Award went to Trish Maskew, a third-year PIPS scholar who completed the greatest number of pro bono hours (1,768).

Public Interest/Public Service Scholarship Program (PIPS)

PIPS provides up to 5 three-year, full-tuition scholarships to entering students each year. Scholars are selected on the basis of demonstrated commitment to public interest and public service as well as outstanding academic and leadership abilities. Scholars attend monthly meetings and organize programs and public service events such as the IMBY (In My Back Yard) Public Service Day, the Public Interest Roundtables, and a variety of public interest programs and events for students. Scholars agree to spend three of their first five years out of law school in full-time public interest or public service employment.

Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance Program (PILRAP)

Central to the educational mission of the American University Washington College of Law (WCL) is the belief that law is based on the inherent dignity of all individuals. WCL graduates have a proud history of building upon that core belief. Many of WCL's alumni enter into careers for the public interest, carrying forward the institution's long-standing commitment to use the law as a tool for positive change in our society. Given the cost of higher education and the resulting debt burden with which students graduate, a career in public interest is often not economically viable unless graduates invest time and energy in learning how to manage debt. It is important that public interest lawyers avail themselves of the repayment plans and assistance programs available to them. As a demonstration of its ongoing commitment to supporting graduates who apply the law to the greater good, WCL implemented an invaluable assistance program, the Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance Program (PILRAP).

PILRAP helps relieve economic burden imposed by educational debt by providing loan repayment assistance for JD graduates who work full-time in non-profit, government or other employment in which the graduates are engaged in serving under-represented or traditionally marginalized populations. For more information about the PILRAP program, go to

In My Back Yard (IMBY) Public Service Day

IMBY provides an opportunity for incoming students to kick off orientation in the spirit of public service by working side by side with faculty, staff and returning students in an informal, fun environment while performing public service in the local community. Each year, nearly 200 participants are paired with local nonprofits that have in the past included DC Central Kitchen, Bread for the City, the MLK Transitional Shelter, So Others Might Eat (SOME) and the Women's Collective. IMBY Is organized each year by the Office of Public Interest and the Public Interest/Public Service (PIPS) Scholars, and is sponsored by the Office of the Dean.

Peter M. Cicchino Student Public Service Awards Dinner

This annual event is held in honor of beloved former WCL Professor Peter M. Cicchino, who passed away in 2000. Professor Cicchino was a brilliant scholar and teacher, and a brave and creative public interest lawyer, who among many other accomplishments founded the Lesbian and Gay Youth Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City.

The Cicchino Awards Dinner is the academy awards of student public interest and pro bono work. Students are recognized at a sumptuous dinner before their peers, faculty and staff for a variety of awards and accomplishments, including: completion of the Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program, external pro bono and public service awards, post-graduate public interest fellowships, and the Cicchino Awards themselves.

Public Interest Roundtables

Called by some, "The most fascinating hour I have had at WCL," the Public Interest Roundtables bring together 1L students with faculty, alumni and local practitioners over lunch in an informal setting to discuss the public interest aspects of first-year courses. A detailed schedule will be available at the beginning of each semester..

Pro Bono Opportunities Blog

The Office of Public Interest Pro Bono Opportunities Blog - In the Public Interest - serves as a conduit between OPI and the WCL community, with up-to-date news and available opportunities in public interest areas.