Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ten Reasons to Become a Public Interest Lawyer

My co-author and dear friend Phil Schrag was inaugurated last week as the first Delaney Family Professor in Public Interest Law at Georgetown Law School. It was a wonderful event, full of pomp and circumstance, and an appropriate tribute to an extraordinary legal career. The Delaney Family Chair is truly remarkable in that it is one of just a handful of chairs that recognize achievement in the field of public interest law. In Phil's case, these achievements include starting as a staff attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, moving to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, becoming a professor at Columbia Law School in the vanguard of the clinical legal education movement, joining the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and finally settling at Georgetown Law School, where he created and ran the Public Interest Law Scholars program, directs the Center for Applied Legal Studies clinic and its post-graduate fellowship program, and played an instrumental role in ensuring the passage of the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007. Perhaps more importantly, in the words of IntLawGrrl Naomi Cahn, Phil has "been an inspiration and role model to many women on the blog as well as to numerous other public interest lawyers."
It should come as no surprise, then, that Phil parlayed his inaugural lecture into an opportunity to promote public interest work. His excellent speech can (and should!) be read in full here; while I won't reveal the details, it was incredibly inspiring, and an important read for all of us, especially law students who may question the wisdom of taking the public interest path in the current economic climate. Phil lays out in his speech ten reasons to become a public interest lawyer, which should be sufficient to convince any like-minded law student to select this route. Here's hoping Phil's speech inspires at least a few to put their heart and soul into the field as completely as he has done and to positively impact on as many lives as he has.

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