preLaw Magazine: WVU public interest law program among tops in nation

By Carrie Salls | Feb 16, 2018

MORGANTOWN – Jennifer Powell, director of the Center for Law and Public Service at West Virginia University’s College of Law said “WVU is a great school for those who want to become public interest lawyers,” and the law school’s recent sixth-place ranking in preLaw Magazine’s list of the top public interest law schools in the nation is evidence that WVU’s commitment to public interest law is paying off.

Powell told The West Virginia Record that WVU is a good fit for students interested in public interest law because “we have both the academic programming a student would need to become a public interest lawyer and we have a department dedicated to helping and funding students who want to work in public interest law.”

According to Powell, “public interest law typically refers to lawyering done on behalf of those who are living in poverty and can’t afford to hire a lawyer.” In addition, she said this area of law “also refers to lawyers who work in nonprofit legal organizations that focus on specific issues or on behalf of certain types of clients.”

Powell cited Legal Ad of West Virginia’s work with low-income clients who need help with family law, landlord-tenant and educational rights issues and Childlaw Services and Mountain State Justice’s representation of clients and those with consumer and banking issues, respectively, as examples of public interest law practiced in the state.

Jennifer Powell   WVU College of Law

“Our academic programming, including our concentration in public interest law, is broad enough to suit a variety of students’ interests,” Powell said. “We also have over 10 clinical law opportunities where students can work on behalf of clients on a variety of legal issues, like family law, child custody, immigration, veterans issues, business development and claims of innocence/wrongful conviction.”

Powell said WVU’s Center for Law and Public Service hosts the Public Interest Advocates student organization and works with the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest to raise money for students seeking paid summer and full-time, post-graduate jobs with public interest organizations all over West Virginia.

“Right now we have two students who are working as full-time, post-graduate fellows with Legal Aid of WV,” Powell said. “Both are working on a project designed to help families affected by the opioid crisis.”

Specifically, Powell said the school’s two post-graduate fellows are leading Legal Aid’s “relatives as parents” program, which helps relatives of those whose parents are struggling with addiction to “get legal custody and obtain the benefits and services that they and the children need.”

Powell said the school is “very happy to be recognized as a national leader in public interest law.”

“WVU stands out because it is a very affordable and collegial place to attend law school,” Powell said. “Our PIA fellowships and clinical law offerings are among the best in the country.”

According to a Jan. 25 release from WVU Law, this is the second consecutive year that the school has been ranked by preLaw as one of the best for public interest law.

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