Everything You Wanted to Know About OPIA But Were Afraid to Ask



1. OPIA was founded in 1990 as the first separate public interest advising office in the country. A number of law schools have since followed our lead, including Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown, Michigan and UVA.

2. When it started, OPIA consisted of only 2 full time employees, a Director and a “Staff Assistant” (now the “Coordinator” to reflect the critical role of the position).

3. Although the number of part-time employees grew over the years, OPIA remained at only two full-time staff members until 2003.

4. The Law School added an Assistant Director position in 2003 and a new full time Attorney Advisor position just this past summer so that there are now 4 full time staff members at OPIA, plus a number of part-time staff. The new Attorney Advisor position was created to meet ever-increasing demands for advising and to allow us to work even more closely with the Office of Career Services on providing coordinated advice and events.

5. The demands on OPIA’s time have grown enormously over the years: É Ten years ago, we conducted 733 individual advising appointments. Last year, we conducted well over 1200 (we haven’t finished the count yet as we have been too busy). We see over 65% of each new class in individual advising appointments (this does not count those who only attend our events, use our resume editing service, rely on our print or internet resources, or pop in for a quick question). …Ten years ago, we sponsored or co-sponsored about 55 events per year. Last year, we sponsored more than 70 . …Ten years ago, our website consisted of a few pages that changed about once a year. Now it consists of multiple changes with constant updates about upcoming events and fellows and an elaborate network of cross-links. …Ten years ago, we put job announcements into a binder and students had to come in to the office to look at them. Alumni received monthly mailings of xeroxed job announcements. Now job announcements are posted in a database searchable by students from their dorm rooms and apartments and by alums from far and wide. Students and alums are also emailed select information about new jobs. Students can also search on-line evaluations. …Ten years ago, the Job Search Guide was one 257-page volume and we had a small book on public international opportunities (83 pgs., half-size book). We now have a two-volume Job Search Guide, with the first volume of 417 pages and the second volume of 223 pages (to replace the international guide). …Ten years ago, the only summer funds that OPIA administered were a few alumni summer fellowships. Now we co-administer the extremely popular Chayes Fellowships along with the Vorenberg and Sutin Fellowships and 5-8 Alumni Summer Fellowships….Ten years ago, OPIA administered only one postgraduate fellowship – the Kaufman fellowship. Now we also handle the Skirnick Fellowships, the Fine Fellowship, the Beagle Fellowship and the Heyman Fellowships. …Ten years ago OPIA hired 3 or 4 undergraduates during the school year and 4 during the summer. Now we hire 5 during the school year and 6 or 7 during the summer to help handle our enormous administrative needs. Even with this, we have a hard time keeping up with all the job announcements etc.

6. OPIA provides advising services to Alumni as well as students. Most of the alumni seeking advising are those in the private sector hoping to move to the public sector, although we also advise those moving from one public service position to another.

7. As noted above, OPIA produces a two volume set of books on public interest law (the Job Search Guides referenced above) that is largely considered the leading print resource on law-related public service opportunities. Many law schools and colleges purchase these books from us (we charge just to recoup some of the considerable cost of producing these books). We also produce many “specialty guides” on different aspects of public service, ranging from public defender work to conservative/libertarian public service opportunities to a guide on pro bono at law firms. Many of these specialty guides are posted on our website, so that other schools have free access to these resources.

8. In addition to providing career services and information about public service, OPIA works to build community among public service-minded students and alumni. We host potlucks at our staff’s houses, sponsor a Section Reps program for 1Ls, help with the Public Interest Auction, and organize a graduating dinner for 3Ls. We also work closely with faculty and other offices including the Office of Career Services, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, the Financial Aid Office, and the Human Rights Program.

9. OPIA staff members have been awarded the Dean Suzanne L. Richardson Staff Appreciation Award – given to one staff member at graduation by the graduating class – in each of the last two years.

10. More and more students are engaging in public service. This past summer over 360 students did a full summer of public service work (twice as many as the approximately 177 just five years ago). About 10-12% of each graduating class takes a public service job as their first postgraduate job other than a judicial clerkship.

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