The Public Service Scholars Program prepares future lawyers for the practice of law in public service through a comprehensive program, throughout the duration of law school, that offers specialized training and experience in public interest law. Public Service Scholars are selected through an application process on the basis of their ability to continue the strong tradition of public service at Cardozo Law. Students who are accepted into the program come with diverse backgrounds and interests, and many bring to the program prior experience in public interest organizations, nonprofits and government work.
The program provides a community within the law school that supports and encourages students to develop skills as an advocate and a leader. It exposes students to some of the most important and exciting issues in public service law through a range of events, including informal luncheons and a speaker series featuring distinguished advocates in the field, as well as through faculty and student mentoring. Public Service Scholars are expected to take an active role in organizing and developing these events, drawing on the unique interests and expertise that they bring to the law school.
Admission to the Public Service Scholars program is highly selective. Selection criteria include academic achievement and a demonstrated commitment to public service. Students are encouraged to apply to the program prior to entering the law school as first-year law students. The vast majority of Public Service Scholars will be selected from the entering classes of law students, although a few positions are available each year for rising second-year law students.
The application for admission to Public Service Scholars will be available to the incoming 1L class (both Fall and May entry) around June 25. The application deadline is August 1. Applications should be submitted by the deadline to Leslie Thrope, Director, Public Service Law Center, Cardozo School of Law, 55 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1128, New York, NY 10003 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at (212) 790-0232.
Public Service Scholars are offered assistance in securing internships in the public sector following their first and second years of law school. Scholars have worked in a variety of governmental and nongovernmental settings including judicial chambers; public interest organizations; federal, state and local agencies; civil rights and environmental organizations; and criminal defense and family law firms. Funding for public sector summer internships is available for all 1L and 2L students through participation in our annual Public Service Auction fundraising effort. Since 2003, Cardozo has funded all eligible students for summer internship work in the public sector.
Public Service Scholars attend monthly lunches that provide an informal opportunity to meet and engage with public service advocates from outside the law school, faculty with public service experience, and other students. These lunches serve to introduce the Scholars to public service opportunities at Cardozo and beyond and to explore current public service issues. In addition, Public Service Scholars assist in organizing the Distinguished Public Service speaker series, a program of school-wide lectures provided by nationally known public service advocates.
Past events have included discussions with Cardozo faculty, judges, government attorneys, authors and lawyers from civil rights and other non-governmental organizations.
Mentoring and Social Events
The program provides a strong support system throughout law school. First-year Public Service Scholars are matched with an upper-class Public Service Scholar mentor. This relationship helps ease the transition of the first year of law school and fosters a collegial program.
Scholars are also matched with faculty mentors who provide guidance and support. Public Service Scholars alumni become part of a network that provides opportunities for social events and informal job counseling, and current Scholars periodically arrange off-campus social events. The program also offers a specialized preview of clinical education programs.
All Public Service Scholars are invited to an annual dinner where, in an intimate setting, selected faculty and guests discuss emerging public service issues with prominent public service professionals. Dean’s Dinner lectures have been delivered by, among others, Mitchell Bernard, Director of Litigation at the National Resources Defense Council; Marianne Engelman Lado, Director of Litigation and Advocacy at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; Judge Robert D. Sack, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Public Law Advocacy Week
Public Service Scholars work together with the Public Service Law Center and other interested students to organize Public Law Advocacy Week (P*LAW). The week-long symposium is an intensive introduction to careers and opportunities in public service, featuring a series of panels, workshops and community service events that focus on the areas of public interest law and practice most relevant to the student planners. Prior events have included panels on domestic and international human rights issues as well as sessions focused on training students to advocate on behalf of local high school students appearing before the NYC Department of Education after having been suspended from school. The event, which also includes a public service employment fair, is open to all students and faculty from Cardozo and area law schools. Scholars close P*LAW with an annual INSPIRE! event, where they recognize alumni, faculty, staff and fellow students who inspire them to do public service work.
Dean Matthew Diller, Professor Ellen Yaroshefsky and Professor Alex Reinert serve as faculty advisors to the Public Service Scholars. Dean Diller, a prominent scholar of social welfare law and policy, was named Dean of Cardozo in 2009. He has lectured and written extensively on the legal dimensions of social welfare policy, including public assistance, Social Security and disability programs, as well as on disability law and policy. Professor Yaroshefsky is a Clinical Professor of Law and the Executive Director of the Jacob Burns Ethics Center. She is an expert on legal ethics and has a long career in public service, including work as a criminal defense lawyer and as an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Professor Reinert is an Associate Professor of Law who teaches Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and the Rights of Prisoners and Detainees. He joined Cardozo after working for several years practicing civil rights law in New York City and has appeared on behalf of parties and amici curiae in many significant civil rights cases.
In addition to those featured here, many other faculty members take part in program activities and serve as advisors to the Public Service Scholars.