Amy Barasch ’96 Receives Public Interest Award


New York’s esteemed public interest community came out last week to celebrate Amy Barasch ’96, executive director of the nonprofit Her Justice, as this year’s recipient of the Columbia Law School Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) achievement award. Barasch was honored by colleagues and Columbia Law School students, faculty, alumni, and staff at a festive Oct. 6 reception held at the Columbia Club of New York.  

Barasch is a passionate advocate of social justice and a renowned civil court litigator who has devoted her career to serving women and children in need of legal representation. Her deep understanding of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and public safety led to her current role as head of Her Justice, an organization that connects more than 7,000 low-income women and children to private attorneys each year. 

From 2007 to 2012, Barasch served as executive director of the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. After leaving state government, she became a public service professor at SUNY Albany, and served as an independent consultant to state and county governments, private foundations, and not-for-profit organizations. Earlier in her career, Barasch worked for the New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, serving as the executive director of the City’s first Family Justice Center, which opened in Brooklyn in 2005

PILF’s Annual Dinner, now in its 27th year, gathers accomplished New York-area lawyers and members of the Columbia Law School community to honor an individual who has made substantial contributions in the area of public interest law. Anne Williams-Isom ’91, chief executive officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone, was last year’s recipient of the Public Interest Achievement Award.

During her award acceptance speech, Barasch (pictured above left) shared insights with Ellen Chapnick, (right) dean for Social Justice Initiatives (SJI), emphasizing that students intent on working for large law firms have many avenues to engage in public service. Other speakers included PILF President Torie Recalde ’18; Cathy Kaplan ’77, a partner at Sidley Austin and an active member of Her Justice; and reception co-chairs Amanda Barkin ’18 and Rachel MacDonald ’18.

PILF, established in 1980, is an independent nonprofit organization that sponsors grants to small public interest ventures, supports students’ spring break pro bono caravans, and builds strong relationships between students and alumni who have maintained a commitment to public service throughout their careers. Along with its spring auction, PILF’s annual reception is its main fundraising event each year. All net proceeds from the dinner support fellowships for student summer work and PILF's Community Grants program. 

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Posted October 12, 2016