|Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, extols the virtues of a life in public life law.|
When Nan Aron asks lawyers about their lives, she notices a pattern.
Aron said the majority, who work for private firms, are usually focused on their retirement. But her few colleagues in public interest law are always excited about and eager to discuss their cases. Aron is no exception.
"There's always a fight, there's always a challenge, and it never goes away. Public interest law is not for the faint of heart," she declared at the Public Interest Week Honorary Fellow-in-Residence lecture in March, which was sponsored by the Toll Public Interest Center. Aron is founder and president of the Alliance for Justice, a national consortium of public interest and civil rights organizations.In the lecture, she shared reflections on her own 37-year-long
career in public interest law as well as some of the hottest public interest issues she sees today, and urged students to join the field after graduation.
Aron reminded the audience that law school graduates "don't always get our first choice" of employment. She wanted a job in legal services after graduating, but instead started out as a trial attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ended up being a "terrific experience," she said.
In 1979, Aron founded the Alliance for Justice on a "tiny" grant. Recently, its focus was on the nomination of former Office of Legal Counsel Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee to be a judge on the Ninth Circuit. Bybee had refused to discuss the infamous memos he signed authorizing the CIA to use "enhanced interrogation techniques" on prisoners, but the Alliance for Justice asked the Senate not to approve his judgeship until he did.
"It is incumbent upon us, as lawyers, students, and teachers, to keep pressing the Justice Department to make sure that what happened at the Office of Legal Counsel never happens again," declared Aron. "Hundreds of detainees lost their lives because of torture. It's a stain on our country, and a stain on the legal profession."
Opportunities to make a difference await lawyers who enter public interest law nowadays, Aron told the audience. "This is really the time to make change, to get in there."