Press Release

NIU Law Makes Top 20 for Public Interest Law

January 27, 2012

DeKalb, Ill.--New rankings released by the National Jurist Magazine recognize the Northern Illinois University College of Law as one of the best law schools in the nation for students interested in pursuing careers in public service or public sector jobs.

According to the magazine, 16.6 percent of NIU law graduates pursue careers practicing law in government, placing it in the top 20 in that category. The government classification includes lawyers who practice in areas such as zoning and taxes, or who handle legal affairs for public agencies.

Dean Jennifer Rosato “It’s wonderful to receive such recognition,” said Jennifer Rosato, dean of the NIU College of Law. “It’s a tremendous honor for the college, for our alumni and for our students who are exploring this avenue, which has long been an area of strength for the college since its inception.”

Nearly a quarter of NIU law graduates choose to start their careers pursuing some aspect of public interest law, said Greg Anderson, director of career opportunities and development for the college. “While this particular ranking focuses on the number of graduates working in government, there are many others who go on to work as prosecutors, public defenders and for public interest agencies.”

Ryan T. LipinskiNIU Law alumna Ryan Tyrell Lipinski serves as chief administrative law judge and bureau chief of administrative hearings at the Illinois Healthcare and Family Services Agency. She has been a government attorney since she graduated in 2004 and finds her work to be a highly fulfilling, intellectually stimulating area of law without the pressure of client demands and billable hours.

According to Lipinski, “Government practice provides for a high quality of life and enables me to be part of exciting changes in government regulation.” Prior to her current position, Lipinksi worked as supervising assistant attorney general in the Office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

“Serving the public good is an important job for every public law school, and as the only public law school in northern Illinois we have always embraced that mission,” Rosato said. “It is important for public law schools to serve the needs of the community, and that includes not only government, but also those who need access to legal assistance.”

That history of graduates entering public service has helped to perpetuate that dedication to public interest. Alumni, many of whom retain close ties to the law school often provide students with opportunities for internships and are often in a position to hire new graduates who in turn follow that path.

In addition, while the college does not have a formal program designed to prepare students for work in the public sector, many faculty have a background in that area and there are student organizations, internships and other opportunities for students to explore the field. Included on that list is the Zeke Giorgi Legal Clinic in Rockford, which specializes in serving individuals who otherwise cannot afford legal assistance.

Lipinski noted that her interest in working in public interest was nurtured at NIU Law. “Participating in numerous NIU Law student organizations, including the Public Interest Law Society exposed me to various public interest career paths, including alternatives to traditional litigation,” she said. “I also attended NIU Law events which provided networking opportunities and exposure to alumni, many of whom were active in government practice and served as role models.”

Another factor that makes NIU a popular destination for those interested in careers in public law is its affordability. Law students at NIU graduate with less than half as much debt as typical law students, allowing them to pursue careers in public interest law where the financial rewards are typically lower than in private practice.

“It’s an important consideration for students,” said Anderson. “Students who graduate with tremendous debt, and who want to work in the public sector, often have to pursue different paths because they need higher salaries to pay back their loans.”

While public service and public interest law jobs pay less and place lawyers in the trenches of the legal profession, they can also be a launching pad to much bigger things, said Anderson, who points out that a background in public interest law has helped many NIU law graduates go on to become judges. In its brief 34 year history, the NIU College of Law already boasts 77 sitting and retired judges among its alumni.

For more information on the NIU College of Law, visit www.niu.edu/law or email lawadm@niu.edu.

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For more information, contact:
Melody Mitchell
Alumni Events & Public Relations
(815) 753-9655 or mmitchell@niu.edu