SJI Expands Public Interest Network

Winter 2010

Social Justice Initiatives (SJI) at Columbia Law School has deep connections to the public interest community in New York. But with more students and graduates looking beyond the metropolitan area, SJI has been strengthening Columbia’s ties in other parts of the country by creating the Columbia Law School Faculty-Graduate Social Justice Network.

The largely graduate-led network, which will also maintain a strong New York presence, consists of public interest–minded students and graduates, as well as regional “consultant counselors” who will help build connections throughout the country. Their combined efforts augment the work of SJI’s New York–based staff by providing local expertise and connections to other experienced Columbia graduates in different cities and states. The overarching goal is to facilitate professional and personal relationships, working collaborations, and continued learning. “We are well aware that graduates and students increasingly would like to work outside the New York area,” says Ellen P. Chapnick, dean for SJI. “So we’re expanding our circle of advisers by hiring graduates who live in different parts of the country and are experts in different areas of practice.”

The network, which Chapnick developed in collaboration with Professor Susan P. Sturm and several other faculty members, focuses on seven regions around the country: Washington, D.C., northern California, southern California, the Pacific Northwest, the South, and the Midwest, as well as New York. The consultant counselors will help members connect with one another and with Columbia Law School faculty members through professional and social gatherings, as well as online interactions. The network welcomes all Law School graduates doing social justice work in a wide variety of settings, including those working at public interest organizations, government agencies, and law firms.

Consultant counselors will also help students and graduates navigate the job market. “In the career search process, a far-flung, diversified network can be a vital tool,” Chapnick says. “A lot of the public interest and government job market is informal. We wanted to build a network in which our graduates and students can help other graduates and students.”