The Eric R. Neisser Public Interest Program is strong testament to the law school’s abiding commitment to public service. Created in 2001, the Program honors the life and work of the late Eric R. Neisser, former acting dean, long-time professor, supervisor in the Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and committed social activist. The Program serves to promote a culture of public service within the law school community, increase and enhance opportunities for students to learn about and experience public interest work, and support and assist students pursuing careers in the public sector. Among the Eric R. Neisser Program’s many initiatives include the following:
- Coordinating a variety of public interest events including First Monday, Pro Bono Awareness Week, and Symposia on topical issues in public interest law;
- Administering the Law School’s Fellows Programs;
- Coordinating the pro bono programs and assisting the student pro bono board in identifying and promoting pro bono and community service opportunities;
- Conducting outreach to alumni and the local, national, and international legal community to forge mutually beneficial relationships
- Providing career counseling, programming, and funding for students and alumni pursuing work in the public sector.
The Program encourages all students to participate in service activities while at Rutgers and to inculcate a spirit of service in our graduates. Central to the Program are Rutgers faculty, who are among the leading scholars and practitioners in a vast array of public interest practice areas. Also integral to the Program are our alumni, who have a distinguished record of holding prominent positions on the bench, in the academy, and in legal practice.
- PRO BONO PROGRAM
- CAREER COUNSELING AND FUNDING
- PUBLIC INTEREST PROGRAMS AND COLLOQUIA
- THE FELLOWS PROGRAM
Rutgers-Newark’s commitment to pro bono is long and deep. Our voluntary pro bono program, launched in 1995, encourages all students to perform 50 hours of law-related service. The program strives to instill a pro bono ethic in our students, while providing them with meaningful opportunities to perform service in the legal community. Each year, over 200 law students participate in the program and provide approximately 10,000 hours of service to the community.
The program has developed pro bono partnerships with a wide range of organizations through which students can pursue pro bono work including the following: American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the American Friends Service Committee, Center for Constitutional Rights, the Education Law Center, the Institute for Social Justice, the Legal Aid Society, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, New York Lawyers Assistance Group, and Volunteer Lawyers for Justice.
More recently, the Rutgers N program has developed a variety of in-house, structured projects through which law students partner with pro bono attorneys, faculty, and the judiciary to provide law-related service to low-income communities. These innovative, community based projects, are developed to create meaningful service-learning experiences for students, while also creating innovative and effective approaches to expanding service-delivery to the Newark and broader NJ legal community.
The Eric R. Neisser Program provides individualized counseling, workshops, and resources supporting students and alumni pursuing public interest careers. The Program co-sponsors the Equal Justice Career Fair, the NYU Public Interest Career Fair, and the Annual Public Interest Reception through which over 200 Rutgers Law students participate each year. In addition, the Program organizes ongoing workshops on public interest career strategies and funding and has developed a variety of resources for students pursuing public interest work.
In addition, Rutgers provides financial support to students pursuing public interest internships and post-graduate careers in public interest law. Our annual Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) hosts an annual auction to raise money for students seeking summer internships. In addition, Rutgers-Newark’s Loan Assistance Repayment Program, founded in 1988, provides vital financial assistance to graduates pursuing public sector careers.
The Eric Neisser Fellowship Programs sponsors a variety of colloquia on emerging issues in public interest litigation and scholarship. Recent programs have included the following:
- Enforcing the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities, April 1, 2015
- The Global Struggle for LGBT Rights: Legal, Political and Social Dimensions, April 10, 2015
- Police Militarization and Racial Fear, March 5, 2015
- Protecting Workers’ and Consumers from Corporate Abuse, October 22, 2014
Symposia provide a unique opportunity for graduates, scholars, practitioners, students and alumni to explore emerging trends in public interest practice, while and broadening the reach of Rutgers-Newark’s public interest legal community nationally and internationally.
Each year, select students from the first-year class are selected to serve in one of our public interest fellows program. Fellows have opportunities to enroll in Clinical Programs, work for leading public interest organizations, and to be part of the leadership for the public interest community at the law school and in the community. Since the Program’s inception in 1992, 138 Rutgers students have participated and many continue to remain active in supporting the program. Currently the Program offers the following Fellowships
- Kinoy-Stavis Program: Founded in 1992, the program was launched to honor the legendary Arthur Kinoy and late Morton Staves, co-founders of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Kinoy-Stavis fellows enroll in the Constitutional Rights Clinic and to work for the Center for Constitutional Rights
- Marsha Wenk Fellowship: Created in memory of Marsha Wenk, 1987, the Wenk Fellowship program supports students pursuing public interest legal careers. Each year two fellows receive a stipend and do a part-time intern at the American Civil Liberties Union
- The Immigrant Rights Fellowship: given to students who demonstrate a commitment to immigrant rights. The Immigrant Rights Fellows enroll in our Immigrant Rights Clinic and received assistance to work at an immigrant rights organization.
- Center for Gender and Sexuality and Law and Policy Fellowship: this fellowship provides students with the opportunity to work on select policy initiatives of CGSLP.
All Fellows serve on the law school’s Public Interest Committee to help develop and participate in public interest activities at the law school. Each year the Fellows host a series of substantive for a on emerging topics in public interest practice.