In September, the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law announced the creation of a new Public Interest Center to help foster a culture of service within the law school. The Center will bring together Northwetern’s growing public interest law resources and opportunities, such as loan repayment assistance, guaranteed summer internship funding, public interest fellowship programs, pro bono opportunities and more.
Cindy Wilson, a PILI board member, is serving as the Interim Director of the Public Interest Center, in addition to her work as a clinical professor and the director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic Center for Externships. She says the goal of the Center is to bring all of their public interest resources together to increase efficiency and launch new projects.
“We’re building an ethic of public service in all our students,” she said. “We want to harness and consolidate all the great public interest work that is already happening so that we can think of them as one and use those resources to increase social justice work, connect with alumni, connect with nonprofits and further the cause of social justice.”
The new Center is possible, in part, because of a $100 million gift made by J.B. Pritzker and M.K. Pritzker to the law school last year. One of the goals of that gift was to focus on public service.
“We want to make sure all of our students understand the duty to do public service and the need for it,” Cindy said.
During its first year, the Center will focus on connecting with alumni who are doing pro bono work. Cindy says the hope is to introduce students to the pro bono and public interest projects of Northwestern alumni so they can start to engage in public service early in their careers.
“There are many opportunities for students to get involved in really exciting social justice work, and we want to do more to connect them with alumni doing amazing public interest work,” she said.
The Center will assist students who are working towards public interest law careers, but will also work to increase career-long pro bono activity among students who plan to work in private practice. “That is the only way we are going to make a dent in the social justice problem,” said Cindy.
And while this new Center will have a positive impact on students, Cindy is also excited about the impact it can have on clients and people in need.
“There are so many poor people who don’t have lawyers and I’m excited to use this as a way to help those people,” she said. “I’m excited about the impact we might be able to have in Chicago, around the country and around the world.”