B.U. School of Law’s public interest program

Issue July 2011

At Boston University School of Law, students are introduced to public service work from the very start. The day before orientation, students this year worked on projects that ranged from serving lunch at Rosie's Place to clearing the banks of the Charles River. The message is reinforced at the school's annual Public Interest Orientation that public service is part of the responsibility of being an attorney.

B.U. Law Dean Maureen A. O'Rourke created a Public Service Committee comprising faculty, administrators and students to advise on public service issues, and last year, National Jurist Magazine named B.U. Law one of the top four law schools in the country for its support of public service.

Clinical programs are available that work with Greater Boston Legal Services and the New England Innocence Project, and this year, spring break pro bono trips were organized for Newark, New Orleans, Detroit, Harlingen, Texas and Kansas City, as well as Boston.

B.U. Law also offers an Externship Program and a Semester-In-Practice program that allow students to work in courts, federal and state government agencies and nonprofit organizations across the country, and even overseas.
The school doesn't just encourage public service, it makes it more financially manageable. Since 1988, B.U. Law has supported alumni in the public service field by easing the burden of monthly loan repayments. Assistance has been available in the form of a forgivable loan since October 2010, and alumni can apply for the program for up to 10 years after graduation.

O'Rourke also set up the Dean's Public Interest Scholarship Program, which awards approximately six first-year law students up to $30,000 per year. There are currently 12 2L and 3L students receiving these scholarships, with plans to award another six to the next 1L class.

Concerns about the economy and the availability of entry-level public interest and government jobs has led to the awarding of 10 public service fellowships for the Class of 2011. Recipients are awarded $40,000 each for 10 months of full-time work in five different states and Ecuador.