Inaugural Public Interest JD Cohort

An excited inaugural Public Interest JD cohort with Caitlin Jachimowicz, Director of the Center for Social Justice and Public Service and the Public Interest JD program.

While August marked the start of classes at Santa Clara Law, for the inaugural cohort of Public Interest J.D. students, it marked a continuation of the path they had already begun to walk during summer.

Santa Clara Law is proud to debut our new Public Interest J.D. (PIJD) program this academic year. Overseen by inaugural director Caitlin Jachimowicz, the PIJD program aims to benefit students who are interested in criminal law, environmental law, human rights law, racial justice, immigration law, anti-discrimination law, and other legal careers related to public interest and social justice. Students interested in a PIJD graduate education apply for the program when coming to Santa Clara Law; the program does not accept later transfers from the School of Law.

The defining marks of the PIJD education are simple. Custom-tailored mentorship. Experiential learning. Practical experience. PIJD students start their education with a summer orientation which introduces them to careers in public interest lawyering. During their stay at Santa Clara Law, PIJD students create customized career path plans under the tutelage of faculty advisors and licensed attorney mentors. PIJD students take their passions and education beyond the classroom, attending judicial proceedings, partaking in advocacy, and preparing legal analyses for real clients.

We spoke to three students of the Public Interest J.D.’s inaugural cohort about their interests, their hopes, and their goals during their time as PIJD students. Paula Duran 1L, Samuel Pumarejo 1L, and Adam Reid 1L all hail from different corners of the nation, yet are united at Santa Clara Law through their shared enthusiasm for public service. These are their stories.

Paula Duran’s interest in law first began when she worked at a non-profit lobbying group, gaining some exposure toPaula Duran the state legislature in Sacramento. She landed a job at a law firm, which she held for two and a half years before returning to school to study nursing. There, Duran worked for thirty years in women’s healthcare, delivering over two thousand newborn babies.

“That interest in the law never really left me,” Duran reveals. The day after the decision for Dobbs v. Jackson was released, Duran registered with the Law School Admission Council to apply for law school. “Being in women’s health for that long meant that reproductive justice was a very important ideal to maintain, and I just kept going down that path,” Duran says. “There were times along the way where I wasn’t totally sure I was actually to going enroll in law school, but the day that I came to Santa Clara’s Admitted Students Day, I knew that this was my place.”

Duran found that Santa Clara Law’s Public Interest J.D. program was uniquely suited to her learning and career interests. For Duran, a strong pull was the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center (KGACLC), Santa Clara Law’s pro bono advice and representation service clinic. “Just knowing that the school is really committed to giving back to the community was a strong pull for me to come here,” Durant says. “I just feel incredibly lucky and supported as an incoming student by being matched with a faculty mentor, alumni, attorney mentors, and having this small group of student colleagues that are all pursuing public interest law.”

Following law school, Duran is envisioning a storied career in advocacy and policy work, particularly in the women’s health and healthcare arenas. Duran also hopes to fulfill her passion to serve those who need help in underserved communities through her experience as a healthcare provider. “The way that I saw my work as a healthcare provider, it kind of boiled down to me being fluent in the language of healthcare, and I would act as a guide or an interpreter for my clients,” Duran comments. “I want my journey in the legal arena to be similar. I want to teach myself a new language, so that I can assist in similar ways.

Samuel PumarejoFrom an early age growing up in Queens, New York, Samuel Pumarejo had a clear vision for his future: he was going to be a lawyer. When state university in his home state wasn’t academically challenging enough, Pumarejo transferred to Columbia University to study public policy. Pursuing his interests in public service, Pumarejo also enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he became a paralegal, and staffed Senator Chuck Schumer’s office in Manhattan during the summer.

“Growing up, there were a lot of instances in which my parents were struggling in terms of financial solvency,” Pumarejo recalls. “My inclination was always that, if I could someday find a way to actually get into a governmental system, then maybe I could help change things a little bit to the point where I could make people like my parents or like myself, their lives just a little bit easier.”

Having recently completed his Masters’ in Public Affairs at Brown University, Pumarejo is looking to supplement his wealth of knowledge through Santa Clara Law’s Public Interest J.D. program. “I was interested [in PIJD] because of the focus that it allows students to have on channeling their legal studies into a career that would will one day allow them to help others,” Pumarejo says. “That interest in helping others, and the help that [Santa Clara Law] is willing to give to help students hit the ground running as public interest-oriented lawyers—that’s what got me interested in the program.”

Pumarejo plans to complete his J.D. at Santa Clara Law and, immediately after, apply to a position at the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in the California Army National Guard. “Before then, I would like to get a job in public interest,” Pumarejo adds, “maybe in serving as legal counsel for the state legislature, or for the governor’s office. The goal is to put all of my academic and professional experience towards being a good public servant.”

Adam ReidAdam Reid’s story begins in Seattle, where he learned early on the importance of giving back to community. “That was a value instilled in me from my grandmother,” Reid notes. “She always taught my family that helping those beyond yourselves is both an admirable goal and an expectation in being a part of a community.”

That value of reciprocity translated into Reid’s later endeavors, where he worked as a sexual violence prevention intern at Whitman College. “I did a lot of work in the social justice space,” Reid explains. “During my time in that internship, it became very clear to me what type of work I was interested in: survivor advocacy and advocacy for those who may not otherwise be getting the support that they need or deserve.”

Continuing to further his interests, Reid is pursuing a career in public interest law through Santa Clara Law’s Public Interest J.D. program. “The program is what attracted me to the school,” Reid says. “For myself, doing work with survivors and survivor advocacy fits one-to-one, especially with trauma-informed legal resources and legal representation. Having a program that puts an emphasis on that sort of work is exactly why I chose the program, and through the program, the school.”

Reid aims to make life better for others through effective advocacy, and believes that his time and experience with the Public Interest J.D. experience will aid him in that goal. “I find that having a face to a name and working with an individual rather than with a system is a much more fulfilling track to accomplish the aspirations of somebody who needs something changed in their life through the legal system,” Reid says. “I believe that when you nurture the community, the community nurtures you. When you give, you are able to create amazing things with the people around you.”