by Peter D. Schneider
The National Lawyers Guild has served for many as a bridge between law school and a public interest career. The Guild's unique role as a meeting place for a wide range of public interest activists makes it an invaluable career resource for public interest-minded law students.
Among the ways the Guild can serve as a career planning resource are the following:
Each summer the Guild funds approximately 15 law students to work in projects with designated public interest and advocacy organizations across the country. These projects offer students the opportunity to gain experience in a variety of legal and geographic settings. Recent projects have sent students to work with organizations representing farm workers in Michigan and rural Virginia, assist the community economic development efforts of a Tennessee legal services office, fight plant closings in Michigan, and represent immigrants seeking political asylum in Seattle, Arizona, and Texas. The Guild's Summer Projects Directory, describing the projects and containing application materials, is sent to every law school career services office in December or January. The application deadline is February 14.
The Guild also sponsors special year round projects involving law students. Most notable is the Guild's ongoing political asylum project, in which law students from around the country travel to Miami for one-week periods to help refugees prepare political asylum applications.
The Guild can serve as a valuable networking resource for students looking for opportunities to practice public interest law. Students are welcome to get involved in local chapter projects where they can work with practitioners and gain valuable exposure along with substantive law experience.
The Guild's annual national convention and regional conferences feature numerous panels and workshops on a wide range of public interest law topics. These meetings provide further opportunities for networking with other law students and with practitioners in the many practice areas represented in the Guild's membership.
The Guild publishes an annual referral directory listing its full membership and providing additional information, including addresses, phone numbers, and areas of specialization for members who pay for a listing. This directory is an invaluable resource for students seeking to locate public interest law practitioners, especially those in private or solo practice.
The Guild is unique in its function as a bridge between law school and practice, and between public and private practice. Its membership includes lawyers working in legal services and public defender offices, public interest organizations, government, and private practice, as well as judges and members of law school faculty and administrative staff (not to mention a number of law school public interest career advisors). Guild members have national experience in immigration law, police misconduct, criminal defense, labor law, and civil rights litigation. The Guild's long history of support for lawyers pursuing public interest law from a private practice setting is especially valuable in this day of limited entry-level opportunities at traditional public interest organizations.
Many law schools have active NLG chapters, and the Guild will help students organize a chapter at any school that does not have one. Interested students can also contact their local chapters; chapter sponsored panels and workshops are open to students, and local Guild members will often help organize law school programs on virtually any topic if there is sufficient interest.
To obtain local contact information or information about national activities, students and law school career services offices can contact the Guild's national office at
126 University Place
New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 6272656,
Fax: (212) 627-2404