Law School Creates Law and Public Service Program

October 16, 2009

The Law School is launching an intensive new program designed to prepare students for careers in public service.

Jim Ryan
Professor Jim Ryan will lead the new Program in Law and Public Service.

The Program in Law and Public Service will offer a select group of students comprehensive training on topics ranging from prosecution to international human rights.

“The central aim of the program is to help prepare students for a career in public service and to enable them to begin that career immediately after graduation,” said Professor Jim Ryan, who will lead the program. “We also hope that the program will strengthen the sense of community among students interested in public service.”

Participants are required to take the course “Law and Public Service,” and to help organize and participate in a colloquium in their final year. The first class will be taught this spring by Professor Anne Coughlin.

”The program is a great step towards increasing the Law School’s commitment toward public service,” said Yared Getachew, assistant dean for public service and director of the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center. “The program will integrate the Law School'’ public service outreach efforts into the academic curriculum.”

Yared Getachew
Yared Getachew

Students in the program will also be paired with a faculty mentor with experience in their particular field of interest. Each year, up to 20 first-year students will be admitted, and five additional spots will be available for second-year students. Current first- and second-year students are eligible to apply this fall.

“There are some similar programs at other schools, but relatively few that are as focused as this one will be and that will have as much faculty involvement,” Ryan said.

Program participants also will be guaranteed summer funding for public service jobs. The funds will be provided equally by the Law School and the Public Interest Law Association, Ryan said.

“[The program] will be limited in size, in part because a key element will be faculty mentoring, which in turn requires that the program be kept to a reasonable size,” Ryan said. “Many elements of the program, however, will be open to other students, including the introductory class on law and public service, as well as the third-year colloquium.”

Third-year student Susan Edwards, the president of the Public Interest Law Association, said the program is a great opportunity for students interested in pursuing a career in public service.

“It will provide an academic base for students to explore their commitment to public service, will give support to students through a faculty adviser and programming, and will bring together a strong community of students dedicated to public service,” Edwards said.

The program is designed for students who are already committed to public service, but the Law School plans to increase already-substantial efforts to assist students interested in public service who are not yet certain of their career paths, Ryan said.

“It’s important to recognize that this program is just one component of a larger effort to bolster support for public service at the Law School,” Ryan said. “That larger effort includes enhanced curricular offerings, including a large array of clinics, a revised and more generous loan forgiveness program, and a newly created alumni mentoring network, spearheaded by Yared Getachew, which is designed to connect law students with alumni who work in the areas in which the students are interested.”

There will be an information meeting for students interested in the program on Monday at 5 p.m. in WB101.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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