Public Interest Law Students Association


PILSA is a student organization dedicated to supporting fellow students pursuing careers in public service and public interest law. Our goal is to promote a commitment to community service and pro bono work. We work to alert students to relevant career opportunities and give back to the greater Shenandoah Valley. We help raise funds for unpaid summer internships in public interest law. We believe that everyone should have access to justice and encourage advocacy that advances the interests of those who are under-represented in the legal system.


Throughout the year, PILSA organizes opportunities for students to volunteer at a variety of organizations within the community encompassing both legal and nonlegal work. Our mission is to prepare students for the reality that as practicing lawyers, we will have the professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services for low-income people. It is our belief that the spirit of being a lawyer, especially a public interest lawyer, entails understanding the real problems that people face on the ground and doing something about it. Subsequently, PILSA also issues a Service Hours Challenge to individual students and classes to challenge students to show their dedication to serve the people who need it the most. PILSA also seeks partner organizations to help achieve its goals. Please contact Anne Steel at to discuss how we can work together.

Service Opportunities In and Around Lexington


PILSA's Education and Networking component serves three important functions: (1) it informs members about public interest job opportunities; (2) it connects members with W&L Law public interest alumni; and (3) it educates the community about important issues in public interest law. Throughout the year, PILSA facilitates opportunities for members to communicate with employers and network with alumni. Specifically, PILSA informs the school community about job fairs, like the Equal Justice Works Conference, and organizes networking opportunities, like the PILSA Alumni Mixer in October. PILSA compiles a list of all alumni working in nonprofits, the government, and the military, so members can reach out to alumni themselves.PILSA also sponsors multiple panels and speakers regarding topics in public interest law. For example, we have hosted a "Networking Basics" reception, a public defender panel, and hosted speakers talking about issues ranging from immigration to the environment.


PILSA contributes funds raised from events and merchandise to the Mary Z. Natkin '85L Public Interest Summer Internship Fund. The Natkin Fund provides several first and second year law students with grants to support their work in public interest law. We organize a variety of events throughout the year in order to raise money to help these students. Your participation in these events not only gives students the opportunity to pursue work in public service, but also helps to give back to the greater community. PILSA collaborates with the Office of Career Strategy (OCS), Student Bar Association (SBA), and Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) to fund these students. Applications for this funding are typically due late in the spring through OCS.


PILSA defines "public interest" law as advocacy that advances the interests of those who are under-represented in society. The types of employers that generally qualify for PILSA funding include legal aid offices, public interest organizations, social service agencies, non-profit organizations, governmental agencies (including work for a judge, public defender or prosecutor) and tribal entities. Qualifying work may take place outside of the United States and need not necessarily involve direct client services. 


PILSA sells merchandise, hosts an annual 5K walk-run, sponsors a Yankee Candle sale, and seeks community and alumni support, in addition to pursuing other fundraising efforts.

Run-Walk for the Law 5K! 

An annual 5k held in the spring. Check back for details about the 2019 race!