This past week, NYU Law held its 20th annual Public Service Auction, one of the spring semester’s most treasured traditions. The auction funds a sizable chunk of the generous public interest grants provided to 1L and 2L students working in otherwise unpaid public interest jobs over the summer, and requires the efforts of literally hundreds of students to plan the evening, solicit donations, run a flawless event and get all the lots out the door. It’s a massive undertaking that touches nearly every corner of the Law School community, and it’s incredibly impressive to see it pulled off every year.
First and foremost, this is primarily a student auction. Students and young alumni assemble in Greenberg Lounge and Tishman Auditorium to bid on hundreds of items donated from local businesses, all of which were solicited by NYU student volunteers. Students run every aspect of the auction, from setting the menu to paying the bills to serving as the live-auction auctioneers. It’s colleagues helping colleagues–and that’s pretty cool.
Second, law firms around the country take an active interest in the auction’s success, and donate both cash and biddable items (the big-ticket stuff, the computers and the BarBri tuition waivers) every year. This wouldn’t happen without much more senior alumni remembering the Law School long after they graduated, and without the school’s close relationships with firms not just in New York City, but nationwide.
More support comes from the students themselves in the form of student donations. This is my personal favorite part of the auction–you get to learn about the crazy talents, curious skills, and strange hobbies of some of your classmates by seeing (and perhaps purchasing) the services they sell at the auction. You want jazz dance lessons? Easy. Two dozen homemade profiteroles? Sure. That hand-knit scarf looks nice. And those fencing lessons. You get the idea.
Students aren’t the only nontraditional people who give, though. Our fantastic faculty actually are the stars of the PILC auction; every year, they donate some of the most interesting, most hilarious, and most highly sought after items at the auction. Let me give you some examples:
- Professor Epstein hosts a seven-student basketball game every year. (Yes, he plays. In full athletic gear.)
- Fancy yourself a semi-professional gambler (the answer is yes, if you’re thinking of going to law school)? Professors Sam Issacharoff and Cynthia Estlund donated a poker game for five students, with a guest appearance by the one and only Jeffrey Toobin. The catalog proclaimed, “The professors will stake the students $40 each and proceed to win it back from them. Or not.” Details pending.
- Dean Morrison donated a round of golf with himself and the chairman of the real estate department at Fried Frank.
- Professor Satterthwaite donated the opportunity to bake cookies with her and her young twins, in perhaps the most adorable donation of the evening.
At the end of the live auction, Dean Morrison carried on Dean Emeritus Ricky Revesz’s proud tradition of donating a, er… well, humiliating experience for the benefit of the student body. This year’s offering? An opportunity to join him live on stage in front of hundreds of one’s peers and thrash him in a game of Wii Dance. It was just as magnificently hilarious as it sounds–and, surprisingly, highly sought after.
The entire Law School community comes together to put on this event, now in its 20th year. It is a small–but tangible–sign of NYU Law’s commitment to public service. Students with absolutely no intent to go into public interest law are deeply involved in the event’s planning and execution. Alumni who are living the glamorous, relaxing life of a junior Biglaw associate find the time to attend and bid. Faculty and administration both donate their time and effort to make sure the night is a success. It’s a top-down effort involving literally hundreds of students. And every year, it’s an impressive success.