One of the many qualities that attracted me to NYU Law is the institution’s deep commitment to public interest, and the extraordinary quality, character, and diversity of the students who come here as a result. NYU Law takes a broad view of public interest that hinges on the belief that all of us in the legal profession are responsible for promoting justice—whether that means building careers in nonprofit organizations or the government, or doing pro bono work while in private practice. In choosing to apply their considerable skills toward promoting the public interest, our students and graduates render vital service to our country while also maintaining and extending an enduring value of our Law School.
In the pages of this magazine, we celebrate the pioneering work of Karen Freedman ’80, founder and executive director of Lawyers For Children, and Sherrilyn Ifill ’87, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and this year’s Convocation speaker. We also commend the accomplishments of Sheila Birnbaum ’65, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund; Marshall Camp ’02, a partner at Irell & Manella and lead attorney in the first case to test changes to California’s criminal sentencing policies regarding juveniles; and Scott Fein LLM ’81, a partner at Whiteman Osterman & Hannah who was counsel for one of the longest-litigated civil rights cases in US history. Plus, we take great pride in the public interest work that our faculty and students do on a range of issues, including protecting free speech and challenging unlawful government surveillance through our new Technology Law and Policy Clinic, which is described in this issue’s story on intellectual property law.
In keeping with our expansive view of public interest, the Law School in recent years has forged a number of new connections to legal and policy work in government. Last year, for example, we launched a new semester-long clinic in Washington, DC, that places students in a range of offices across the federal government. And thanks to the generosity of Trustee Jay Furman ’71, we also instituted the Furman Public Policy Scholarship Program, which is designed to train and support outstanding students interested in pursuing careers in public policy.
At the same time, we are working to expand our connections at the state and local government levels. One way we’re doing this is through the New York State Excelsior Service Fellowship Program, which places graduates of select New York law schools in state agencies ranging from the Department of Environmental Conservation to the Department of Labor. Through these various programmatic initiatives, we will help new generations of NYU Law graduates follow in the long tradition of alumni working at all levels of government, from Anthony Foxx ’96, US secretary of transportation, to Lisa Landau ’87, chief of the Health Care Bureau at the New York State Office of the Attorney General, to Kenneth Thompson ’92, the newly elected Kings County district attorney. Government is a creature of law, but its laws are only as good as the lawyers attending to them. I’m tremendously proud to have our talented alumni helping to ensure that our government runs efficiently and fairly, safeguarding both our collective welfare and our individual rights.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first graduating class of the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program, the bedrock of our strong public interest mission. The program covers the full cost of tuition for outstanding students who plan to dedicate their careers to public service. The RTK program also had an instrumental role in establishing the Public Interest Law Center, thereby inspiring the spirit of public interest that permeates our larger community. This important anniversary allows us to reflect on how RTK’s aims are shared by NYU Law as a whole. Collectively, we are dedicated to shaping the next generation of leaders, to fostering a dynamic community of scholars, and to ensuring that a concern for the public interest is an integral part of our students’ conceptions of themselves and their roles, no matter which career paths they pursue.
The 2014 magazine was begun and finished during my first term as dean. The magazine staff and I are eager to learn what you think of our news and stories and how we deliver them. Please take a moment to let us know by filling out the reader survey on the last page or online at bit.do/nyulaw2014survey.
As always, I welcome your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.