McGraw Tower, Uris Library and Ho Plaza in fall, shot from Barnes Hall.

Americans have become keenly aware of how the law affects every aspect of our lives, from criminal justice to environmental protection, from housing law to voting rights. We’re also more cognizant than ever that a citizen’s socioeconomic status can be a determining factor in whether rights are protected and laws are applied equitably in our system. Public interest lawyers, says the Honorable Stephen C. Robinson ’81, J.D. ’84, sit at this intersection of justice in America.

“Our system operates best when there are smart, talented lawyers in these particular roles in the justice system,” says Robinson, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney, U.S. attorney, and federal district court judge over the course of his nearly 40-year career. Cornell Law, he says, can be a vital source of people prepared and motivated to serve in these crucial roles every year.

Many students enter Cornell Law with a passion for serving the underserved, but they quickly learn that these relatively low-paying roles in our justice system can make it difficult to pay back student loan debts. That is the driving force behind Cornell’s Public Interest Low-Income Protection Plan (PILIPP), one of several programs created to encourage students and alumni to pursue careers in public interest law.

“Students should not be automatically turned away from this career path because debt is all they see,” says Robinson, who made a gift to establish the Stephen C. Robinson PILIPP Endowment Fund. “Giving to Cornell Law’s public interest programs isn’t about helping an individual student. It’s a place where your dollar, your investment, can be widespread and help many people in many areas.”

You can join Robinson in helping Cornell Law to do the greatest good by making gifts to support grants, fellowships, and programs that make public interest law careers affordable for students and alumni.

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