BY YONI ROSENZWEIG
After interviewing hundreds of candidates, the Office of Public Interest Advising has hired its second full-time advisor, Assistant Director Maura Kelly, who joined the Law School’s public interest community this week. Kelly met OPIA’s demanding criteria as a candidate with diverse work experience, openness to different forms of public interest work at HLS, as well as technical and administrative skills. She comes to the office at a time of its expansion to meet student demand.
Kelly, an expert in education law, served 15 years in legal practice as, among other things, an educational advocate with the Center for Law and Education, the General Counsel of Lesley University, an associate at both Holland & Knight and Kotin, Crabtree & Strong and a professor at Suffolk and Northeastern law schools.
The addition of a generalist career counselor to OPIA represents one of many efforts to increase the quality and quantity of public interest resources to match growing student interest. This year, student demand for advising increased 50 percent over last year’s record level. Responding to concerns about wait times, OPIA directed attention to student need and halved the waiting from last year’s levels.
According to Kelly, the key quality she possesses to serve students effectively is resourcefulness. She has a broad base of knowledge and experience with different forms of public interest work — including government, public-private, judicial clerkships and non-profit work — and the different features of each. She is determined to “listen, elicit desires, personalize, find funding and network to help students break into their desired field,” she said.
Responding to a growing area of student interest, Kelly will develop an expertise in international public interest work, helping to match students with available international work. Kelly says she is “excited to apply her skills in domestic issues to the international field.” By specializing, Kelly allows OPIA to hire a broader array of part-time specialist advisors for next fall’s interview season.
According to OPIA Director Alexa Shabecoff, the next big expansion on the horizon is the conversion of the former Board of Student Advisers space in Pound Hall into OPIA’s complex. The extra space, she says, will “further boost the public interest community at HLS by providing space for student research, meetings, socializing and conferences.” The renovation of the office space is slated to begin in three weeks.
Shabecoff points out that the non-advising work of OPIA accelerates in the spring now that advising demands have decreased. This is especially the case because, in order to meet high student demand for advising, numerous administrative tasks were put aside. Among the tasks are solicitations for the seminal public interest handbook, the search for Wasserstein Fellows and the development of the Alumni Network. Shabecoff also expressed an interest in finding more conservative part-time advisors to counteract the departure of Jim Nuzzo this spring.