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Penn State Law recognized for public service preparation


Penn State Law was named one of the best law schools for preparing students for public service by National Jurist Magazine in December 2011. Penn State Law is the only law school to make three of the five categories identified by the magazine under the public service heading: government, prosecutor/public defender, and state judicial clerks.

"Serving the public interest is a key part of our obligation as professionals and, likewise, a vital component of our contribution to society as a community of legal scholars," said Kate Cramer Lawrence, director of Public Interest Programming at Penn State Law. 

More than 40% of Penn State Law students obtain clinical or externship experience before graduation, reports Kenny Tatum, dean of Career Planning and Development. Penn State Law offers a variety of public interest experiences and externship opportunities. 

Students may obtain practical experience in Washington, D.C. by spending the semester of law school working 32 hours per week in federal agencies and nonprofit organizations through the through the John C. "Jack" Keeney Semester in Washington Program. Supervised in Washington, D.C. by prominent trial attorney Stan Brand, the Keeney program is named in honor of career DOJ prosecutor John C. "Jack" Keeney '49 whose career spanned 23 attorneys general and 12 U.S. presidents, making him one of the longest-serving government employees in history. 

Second- and third-year students can pursue practical experience by working for area judges, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations for class credit through the Penn State Law Externship Program.

Each year, the public interest law fund hosts auctions and fundraisers to fund summer jobs in public interest law. The Degenstein Foundation Fellowship Program for Public Interest Law and Cherie M. Millage Summer Fellowships compensate students for work in nonprofit and legal services organizations that would otherwise be unable to afford summer legal help. In 2011 the program funded 15 nonprofit summer work experiences.

In addition to externships and summer jobs, students frequently provide research assistance to practicing attorneys on pro bono cases through the Miller Pro Bono Program. “In the past three years, we have used Miller Pro Bono students to brainstorm, research, and help draft six amicus briefs for filing in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court," said David Crowley, secretary and chair of the Amicus Committee of the Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania. "We have always found the students to be thorough in their research and prompt in meeting our deadlines. The energy and enthusiasm they bring to a project is inspiring.”  

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