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Reentering the Legal Field Through the Public Service Network

by CBJC Staff November 23, 2011

Lisa Peterson had been an Associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and then served as in-house counsel to an adoption agency before leaving the practice of law for several years to raise her two sons.

Last year, ready to return to the law, she contacted the Public Service Network. An initiative of the City Bar Justice Center, the Network’s mission is to foster public service in the legal community by matching attorneys, law firms and corporate legal departments with legal and non-legal volunteer opportunities in the not-for-profit sector. Attorneys are drawn to the Network for different personal and professional reasons. For some, like Lisa, it offers a pathway back to legal practice after a hiatus.

After talking about her particular areas of interest with the Network’s coordinator, Lisa was presented with a customized list of organizations in need of a volunteer attorney. A Better Chance, an organization working to create educational opportunities for students of color, caught Lisa’s eye. The Network reached out to A Better Chance on her behalf, and Lisa was placed there as a volunteer.

Lisa now serves as volunteer general counsel for A Better Chance, working closely with senior management as legal issues arise in the development, programming and finance areas. The opportunity has allowed Lisa to regain her legal footing. “Even though I’d been out of the workforce for a substantial period of time, I came to A Better Chance with the imprimatur of the Network, and that made all the difference,” she says. “It opened the door for me to a wonderful organization where the work is always varied and interesting.” Appreciative of what the Network did for her, Lisa has since joined the Public Service Network Committee, eager to support its mission.

Since the Public Service Network’s beginning, over 1,000 attorneys have found meaningful public service work and gained valuable experience through The Public Service Network. The Public Service Network and the City Bar Justice Center invite attorneys and non-profits alike to contact the coordinator, Melissa Stanger, at 212-382-6759 or mstanger(at)nycbar.org.

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