Public Interest Law Initiative

Explore the Possibilities: Public Interest Law Opportunities for Law Students (Chicago)


Looking to secure a legal aid, public interest law or government position during or after law school? This program is for law students who are interested in learning more about placements as volunteers, interns, externs, fellows or staff in the public interest law sector.

More info about 2017 and an agenda will be available soon.

2016 Agenda

10:00 a.m. – Registration & Continental Breakfast

10:15 a.m. – Opening Session & Keynote Address

Public interest lawyers are uniquely positioned to make a real difference in the lives of people, families and communities in need. Hear from two attorneys who have dedicated their careers to helping others: LaShonda Hunt, who has worked in various roles in the law firm, corporate, nonprofit and government sectors, and Kate Shank, who for the last 15 years has worked at LAF, the largest legal aid nonprofit serving the Chicago area. LaShonda and Kate will reflect on why they pursued careers in service, how they got their start in public interest law, and what their years of service in the public interest law sector has taught them about what it means to be a lawyer.

Moderator:  Jordan M. Heinz, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP

  • LaShonda Hunt, General Counsel, Illinois Department of Central Management Services
  • Katherine W. Shank, Director of the Volunteer Services Unit, LAF

11:10 a.m. – Concurrent Sessions:

The Basics: What You Need to Know to Get Started

Deepen your understanding of what’s involved in pursuing a career in public interest law. A panel will review important deadlines for major public interest law opportunities as well as ways to connect with Chicago’s public interest law community, and will discuss the basics of applying for internships, externships and fellowships.

  • Candace Moore, Staff Attorney, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Ryann Moran, Supervising Attorney, Cabrini Green Legal Aid
  • Amanda Walsh, Equal Justice Works Fellow, Legal Council for Health Justice (2015 PILI Intern)

Next Steps: Preparing for Post-Graduate Opportunities

Hear from a variety of public interest law organizations about standing out as an intern, extern and fellow, and what you can be doing now to strengthen your postgraduate applications. You will hear suggestions for cover letters, resumes and interviewing, and strategies for making the most of the experience once you secure one of these positions.

  • Rachel Brady, Skadden Fellow, Equip for Equality (2012 PILI Intern)
  • Trisha A. Fillbach, Assistant Director, Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management United States Department of Justice
  • Katherine W. Shank, Director of the Volunteer Services Unit, LAF
  • Thomas Yates, Executive Director, Legal Council for Health Justice

12:10 p.m. – Lunchtime Session: Succeeding in the Early Years as a Public Interest Lawyer

Wondering what it will be like to work in the public interest sector? How you’ll make ends meet in your first few years out of law school? How you’ll help your clients with their legal issues while also managing the emotional implications of these issues for them and for you? It can be done! Hear practical advice from our panel of recent graduates working in public interest law, and ask the questions you’ve always wanted to ask about starting your public interest career.

  • Martin Cozzola, Staff Attorney, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services
  • Ariel Johnson, Legislative Affairs Manager, Illinois Network of Charter Schools
  • Lauren McGee, Attorney and Citizenship Project Coordinator, World Relief Chicago

 1:30 p.m. – Concurrent Sessions:

Understanding Your Government Job Search

Hear advice from hiring representatives from city, state and federal government offices, and review specific techniques for building a resume and applying for government jobs.

  • Joey Cavise, Forensic Science Division, Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender
  • Trisha A. Fillbach, Assistant Director, Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management United States Department of Justice
  • Alexandra Molesky, Assistant State’s Attorney, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office
  • Ruta K. Stropus, Director of Attorney Recruitment and Professional Development, Illinois Attorney General’s Office

Exploring Alternative Public Interest Careers

Learn about a variety of alternative career paths, such as policy work, nonprofit management, clerkships etc.

  • Trevor Clarke, Director, Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP)
  • Joanna Evans, Law Clerk for the Honorable Edmund Chang, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • Heidi Mueller, Deputy Director of Programs, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ)
  • Zach Zarnow, Program Director, Illinois Equal Justice Foundation

Download speaker bios here » 

Lunch will be provided, and business casual attire is recommended.

Online registration is required by 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 12th. If you have any questions or problems with the form, please contact PILI Administrative Assistant Belinda Bing by email or by phone at 312-832-5127.

PILI will host another Explore the Possibilities program at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis on Saturday, September 23rd.


Venue: Chicago-Kent College of Law

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