Best Schools for Public Service: Albany Law School Rises in PreLaw Rankings

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Rajen Sheth et al. posing for a photo

Albany Law School remains among the top law schools in the United States at preparing students for careers in government and public interest, and for jobs as public defenders and prosecutors, according to preLaw magazine's latest rankings.

In its Winter 2020 issue, preLaw named Albany Law one of the "Best Schools for Public Service" in three of four categories:

  • No. 3 in Public Defenders/Prosecutors
  • No. 4 in Government
  • No. 12 in Public Interest

The top-five showing in Public Defenders/Prosecutors and Government marks an improvement of nine and four spots respectively over the previous rankings, published in 2018.

The magazine based its rankings on employment data, curricula—including concentrations, centers, clinics, externship opportunities, student groups, and journals—and debt and loan repayment options.

Albany Law School's Class of 2019 contributed more than 52,000 hours of pro bono and public-service work.

PreLaw reporter Katie Thisdell noted that "a growing number of law students are gravitating toward these positions because of the personal rewards. Studies show that lawyers who do such work are  among the happiest. Currently, more than one-quarter of law school graduates land their first jobs in some form of public service." A study released in 2018 by Gallup and the Association of American Law Schools found that undergraduates who are considering a law degree are most interested in a pathway to a career in politics, government, or public service (44%).

Albany Law School has a long history of educating public-service leaders. Graduates include the 25th President of the United States William McKinley, two former U.S. Supreme Court judges, current U.S. congressional representatives and mayors, former U.S. Attorneys, sitting judges, and numerous other public servants. Students have access to Albany Law School's network of 10,000-plus active alumni—many of whom work in government affairs and policy, public interest, or criminal law—a robust Career and Professional Development Center, public service–focused Opportunity Pathways, and professional opportunities in New York State's capital and its surrounding region.

"Location, location, location. Many of the top schools for government jobs are in capital cities," Thisdell wrote. "Opportunities abound in state capitals, since that's where many governmental agencies are based."

In 2019, the Government Law Center at Albany Law School welcomed the first class in its restructured and expanded Government Law Center Fellowship program. Through the three-year Fellowship, students gain practical experiences and formal preparation for jobs in government and government-related practice.

Each year, Albany Law School students help hundreds of clients through The Justice Center at Albany Law School, which operates the Community Economic Development Clinic, Family Violence Litigation Clinic, Health Law Clinic, Immigration Law Clinic, and Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic, as well as the law school's pro bono program. In the Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic, students help prosecute domestic violence crimes while acquiring basic lawyering and courtroom skills.

The Justice Center also oversees several apprenticeship programs, including the Attorney General Litigation Bureau Practicum, a five-credit course consisting of a weekly seminar and an internship in the Litigation Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s Office in Albany. In the practicum, students are introduced to litigation practice and to the wide variety of defensive litigation handled by the New York Attorney General.

Albany Law School's students also have access to more than 150 field placements in and beyond New York's capital, ranging from government agencies and advocacy groups to public interest law organizations, district attorneys' offices, and a variety of state and federal court systems. Other opportunities include the Semester in Practice program, a semester-long placement experience in judicial, governmental, public interest, and select private law offices.

PreLaw, published by Cypress Magazines, is read by law school professors, administrators, and more than 45,000 prospective law students annually, according to the publication's website.