Excitement and nerves hang in the air as students clump together—small circles of dark suits with toes tapping the ground in anticipation. A young man rushes over to me holding his resume out as though it is a ticket. “Do you know where—" he blurts out before taking step back. “Do you work here?” he asks with a soft laugh. I smile and shake my head “no” as the buzz of conversation flowing from the “Table Talk” room settles in my ears. I look around as shivering students pore into the building. Their eyes dart from each other to the floor to the papers they grip in their hands. Despite their anxiety, they still offer me small smiles as they dash to their next interview or networking opportunity.
This was the scene last Friday at NYU Law’s main building in Greenwich Village during the 34th Annual Public Interest Legal Career Fair (“PILC Fair”). NYU Law and 20 other law schools from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island hosted this impressive career fair attended by 2,414 law students (the highest number ever). The two-day PILC Fair gives students the opportunity to meet and interview with public interest and government employers. This year, 598 representatives from 213 employers participated.
“There are so many public interest employers in one place and at one time,” says Rachel Peckerman, Associate Director of NYU Law’s Public Interest Law Center. Ms. Peckerman understands the value of the PILC Fair better than anyone—she secured her 1L summer internship through the PILC Fair when she was a student at NYU Law (and she went on to work with the organization after graduation), participated in the PILC Fair as an employer and now oversees the Fair. As Ms. Peckerman indicates, the Fair doesn't just benefit students—it's a great recruiting tool for employers: “we bring thousands of students from 21 law schools to NYU so that employers can meet in-town and out-of-town students and do all of their summer internship hiring over two days, if they choose.”
And while the large number of employers and 15-minute interview slots provide prime opportunities for public interest jobseekers, other key aspects of the Fair are networking and learning more about employers. The PILC Fair features “Table Talk” rooms where employers literally sit at small tables and wait for students to come and talk to them (although there didn’t seem to be much waiting—I didn’t see one empty table). Ms. Peckerman explains that “Table Talk levels the playing field for students who may have weaker public interest resumes because they are just out of college or could not financially afford to do unpaid internships in the past. It allows them access to employers who may not have granted them an interview.”
The PILC Fair also demonstrates law schools' commitments to public interest law. Although corporate recruiting may often overshadow public-interest career searches, nonprofit and government work is a priority for many law schools. Elizabeth Kane, Director of the Public Service Office at Brooklyn Law, explains that public interest is a “big deal” at Brooklyn Law—the school has an office “totally devoted to counseling public interest.” Similarly, Thomas Maligno, Director of Public Interest at Touro Law, notes that 1/4 of Touro Law students go into public interest, and all students are required to complete 40 hours of public interest work. According to Ms. Peckerman, NYU Law's commitment is evident through educational programs, funding for public interest summer internships, a generous LRAP program and the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program through which 20 public-interest-bound students receive full scholarships.
So what steps should students take if they’re interested in pursuing public interest law? Aside from going to the PILC fair, Ms. Peckerman advises that “everyone’s career path is different. Talk to your public interest career counselor about what area of law, what geographic area, and what practice setting are right for you.”
What were your impressions of the PILC Fair this year? Has the PILC Fair helped you land a summer internship or post-graduate job? Vault Law wants to hear about your experience.
A full list of law schools that participated in the PILC Fair: Albany Law, Brooklyn Law, Cardozo Law, Columbia Law, Cornell Law, CUNY Law, Fordham Law, Hofstra Law, New York Law School, NYU Law, Pace Law, Quinnipiac Law, Roger Williams Law, Rutgers Law, St. John’s Law, Seton Hall Law, Syracuse Law, Touro Law, University of Buffalo Law, University of Connecticut Law and Yale Law.
2011 Public Interest Legal Career Fair site
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