Cornell Law School Office of Public Service Short

Public Interest Symposium Brings Students and Alumni Together to Explore Careers in Public Service

Ithaca, NEW YORK, February 21, 2013

Thirteen Cornell Law School alumni returned to Myron Taylor Hall on Friday, January 25 to take part in the 8th Annual Public Interest Legal Career Symposium sponsored by the Office of Public Service. The Symposium, which featured four panels, moderated by Karen Comstock, Assistant Dean for Public Service, and Elizabeth K. Peck, Director of Public Service, attracted a large and engaged student audience.

"First-year students especially appreciated the opportunity to hear from a critical mass of Cornell Law alumni," said Comstock. "The speakers represented a range of practice settings in which they contribute in very meaningful ways for the public good."

Each speaker offered concrete advice on crafting meaningful careers and finding job satisfaction. They provided insights into the best and most difficult aspects of their jobs, offered tips to students interested in pursuing their type of work, suggested helpful courses, clinics, internships, and other Law School experiences, and reflected upon the wisdom they have gained and how that impacts their goals for the future.

Later that evening close to 100 students attended the Symposium’s capstone event at Cornell’s Statler Hotel, the 13th annual Cyrus Mehri ’88 Public Interest Lecture, "Myths and Misconceptions: Public Defenders as Real Lawyers for Real Criminals," given by Joseph Krakora '83, Public Defender for the State of New Jersey.

"This year’s well-received lecture provided a pragmatic, yet upbeat, perspective on the U.S. criminal justice system," added Comstock.

Sworn in as the New Jersey Public Defender on June 28, 2011, Krakora has devoted more than 25 years representing indigent citizens charged with criminal offenses. For eight years he served as an assistant public defender and Director of Capital and Special Litigation, handling numerous death penalty cases until the abolition of the death penalty in New Jersey in December 2007. He spent a number of years as both a staff attorney and a manager in the Essex Adult Region where he developed his reputation as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state.

Cyrus Mehri, a devoted supporter of Cornell Law School’s public interest program, created the annual lecture with the belief that a vital component of legal education is the opportunity to benefit from strong public interest mentors. Alumni Participants in the Public Interest Symposium:

Working Towards Social and Economic Justice


  • Jennifer DaSilva ’03, Founder and Executive Director, Start Small Think Big - New York, NY
  • Lisa Newstrom ’08, Attorney, Bay Area Legal Aid - San Jose, CA
  • Brad Weinstein ’05, VP, Office of Corporate Engagement, Goldman, Sachs - New York, NY


Promoting the Public Interest as a Private Attorney

  • Diana Adams ’04, Principal, Diana Adams Law and Mediation-New York, NY
  • Wendy Atrokhov ’99, Public Service Counsel, Latham & Watkins - New York, NY
  • Michael Siegel ’09, Associate Attorney, Siegel & Yee - Oakland, CA

Protecting the Environment

  • Bradley Oliphant ’01, Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division – Washington, DC
  • Alexis Saba ’11,  Fellow, Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law - New York, NY
  • Daniel Sosland ’85, President & CEO, Environment Northeast – Rockport, ME

Representing the Public as a Government Attorney

  • Christopher Bletsch ’05, Senior Counsel, New York City Law Department, Commercial and Real Estate Litigation Division – New York, NY
  • Patricia McCarthy ’89, Assistant Director, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch – Washington, DC
  • Justin Pfeiffer ’07, Senior Attorney, New York State Department of Health, Bureau of House Counsel – Albany, NY