Oregon Law a leader for students pursuing futures in public service and public interest

William Knight Law Center

Two recent publications highlight Oregon Law as a leader in launching public service and public interest careers. Above the Law noted that Oregon Law ranks #9 in the nation for the percentage of graduates who enter public service and public interest work. In a ranking of the best law schools for public interest law, PreLaw magazine ranked Oregon Law #17.

“We are proud of how we rank nationally,” said Jennifer Geller, managing director of the Public Law and Policy Program. “Oregon Law has a long tradition of supporting students who want to drive change, and we continue to build on this tradition.”

Geller notes that the program engages student’s’ interests in public interest legal work, public sector practice, and public policy by offering two academic concentrations in Law and Public Policy and Public Interest Law. The law school also provides fellowship programs for students to engage in public policy research and the opportunity to build their leadership skills through the Frohnmayer Leadership Program.

Opportunities for field placements and clinics, as well as a robust pro bono culture, support students’ interests. The Wayne Morse Center, a separate center housed in the law school, offers summer stipends for public service work in Salem and Washington, D.C. Additionally, the student-run Oregon Law Students Public Interest Fund (OLSPIF) offers grants for work at legal nonprofits in the summer. This past year, 21 students were awarded OLSPIF grants totaling over $83,000.

2019 Employment among Oregon Law graduates


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Providing the Experience to Make a Difference

Alex Fletcher (JD ’22), was a recipient of the OLSPIF stipend this summer. She says that while she has always known that she wanted to go into public interest work, her experience working with the Clackamas Indigent Defense Corporation (CDIC) in Oregon City, helped solidify her desire to pursue criminal law.

“The criminal justice system is pervasive and daunting. With the experience gained at CDIC, I learned that I am fully capable of interacting with clients who are scared and confused and that I can offer them some guidance and encouragement,” said Fletcher. “I intend on volunteering my services pro bono as often as I can through the next two years of law school, and beyond, to fight for those whose lives have been uprooted.”

Alum Joshua J. Eastman (BS ‘10/JD ’13) was recently appointed by Oregon Governor Brown to be District Attorney of Josephine County. He points to his time at Oregon Law, specifically academic classes and clinics, as responsible for his public interest career.

“My time at the UO, specifically the criminal law classes, are responsible for a complete 180 in my career path,” said Eastman. “Additionally, the availability of clinics and practical classes that the UO offered gave me the foundational skills needed for this job where so much of it is thinking on your feet.”

The law school’s ongoing public interest initiatives also support students' interest in public service after they graduate. Oregon Law's Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) serves to increase graduate access to public service careers by enabling new graduates to pursue lower paying public interest legal positions by alleviating some of the stress of student debt. 

Student debt - which has become a growing issue over the years - is a barrier to students who want to work with people and programs that are underserved.

Kiara Fiegi (JD ’15) is a Public Defender with the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office in Montgomery, Alabama, and a third-year recipient of LRAP. In her work, Fiegi provides legal representation to individuals who have been charged with a crime and have been determined indigent by the court. She also works to address issues such as untreated mental illnesses, drug addiction, learning disabilities, homelessness, and joblessness to help reduce recidivism rates.

“Participating in multiple externships and clinics at Oregon Law allowed me to be in a courtroom, in front of real people, helping with real legal needs,” said Fiegi. “I gained practical legal skills which wouldn’t be possible with only traditional lecture courses. That was one of the major things that prepared me for my career in Alabama.”

As a student, Fiegi was a Gideon’s Promise Fellow in the Law School Partnership Project and now serves as a Gideon's Promise mentor. As a mentor and former fellow, she endeavors to fulfill the Gideon’s Promise mission of transforming the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities.

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