Alumni Share Strategies for Public Interest Legal Careers
The 9th Annual Public Interest Legal Career Symposium was held at the Law School on January 24, 2014. Eleven Cornell Law alumni returned to Ithaca to share their wisdom and enthusiasm with a large student audience. Attendees were energized by the speakers’ strategies for building careers dedicated to contributing to the public good.
The symposium featured three panels presented in Myron Taylor Hall and moderated by Karen Comstock, assistant dean for public service, and Elizabeth K. Peck, director of public service. Each speaker offered concrete advice on crafting stimulating careers and finding job satisfaction. They provided insights into the best and most difficult aspects of their jobs, offered tips to students interested in pursuing their type of work, and suggested helpful courses, clinics, internships, and other law school experiences. Speakers also reflected upon the wisdom they have gained and how that impacts their goals for the future.
Beginning this year, the symposium was underwritten by an endowment from the AP Foundation as part of the Frank H.T. Rhodes Public Interest Law Fellowship. The Rhodes Fellowship, which is now in its third year, provides a salary and benefits for a two-year period to a selected graduate. The graduate partners with a nonprofit legal organization on an innovative project designed to improve the delivery of legal services to vulnerable populations. In addition, the endowment provides support for an annual gathering of public interest alumni for the purpose of returning to campus to mentor current students and network with fellow Cornellians.
Later in the evening on March 24, close to 100 students attended the symposium’s capstone event at Cornell’s Statler Hotel, the 15th annual Cyrus Mehri ’88 Public Interest Lecture. Mehri, a devoted supporter of Cornell Law School’s public interest program, created the annual lecture with the belief that that a vital component of legal education is the opportunity to benefit from strong public interest mentors.
Public Interest Legal Career Symposium Panels
Crossing Borders: Issues of National and International Concern
- Michael Pillera ’11, Asylum Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Laura Berumen ’10, Attorney, California Rural Legal Assistance Migrant Farmworker Project
- Dawn Sikorski ’05, Acting Corporation Counsel, Islamic Relief USA
In Our Back Yard: Creative Projects Supporting Local Communities
- Jacques David ’05, Attorney, The Legal Aid Society Harlem Neighborhood Office, Community Development Project
- Molly Curren Rowles ’08, Attorney, Jewish Community Alliance
- Melissa Gallo ’12, Frank H.T. Rhodes Public Interest Fellow, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
- Ben Tettlebaum ’12, Frank H.T. Rhodes Public Interest Fellow, Conservation Law Foundation
For the People: Government’s Role in Consumer Protection
- Ronald Chillemi ’96, Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, State of NJ Attorney General’s Office
- James Kim ’99, Enforcement Attorney, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Yen Hoang ’11, General Attorney U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Cyrus Mehri ’88 Public Interest Lecture
“Community Development Law–How to Make a Difference”
Michael S. Levine ’80
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, New York, NY