City & State New York magazine has named Swati Parikh, NYLS’s Senior Director of Public Service and Pro Bono Initiatives, to its “Responsible 100” list.
The list highlights “100 New Yorkers who are setting new standards of excellence, dedication, and leadership in improving their communities and making transformative change in New York,” the magazine announced. Parikh and her fellow honorees—who include Chirlane McCray, New York City’s First Lady and Board Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City—will be honored at a December 14 luncheon at New York University.
Parikh’s primary role at NYLS is to connect students to public interest employers, including nonprofits and government agencies. She manages relationships with over 100 groups throughout the city and coordinates public interest networking events and job fairs. She also oversees NYLS’s Pro Bono Initiatives, helping students and graduates meet their New York State bar passage requirement of 50 pro bono service hours. In addition, Parikh recently began managing the operations of NYLS’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law, which organizes the School’s social justice advocacy and events.
“It’s exciting to be honored for work that’s important to me,” Parikh says. “I’ve been involved in legal services and pro bono since I graduated from law school.”
“Swati has dedicated her entire career to helping government and public interest lawyers advocate for vulnerable people in need, alleviate poverty, and promote justice,” said Dean Anthony W. Crowell. “Due to her understanding of how complex systems work and her unwavering commitment, dedication, and skill, she has helped our graduates launch meaningful careers at government agencies and nonprofit advocacy organizations. Swati’s work directly contributes to our School’s mission, and I couldn’t be prouder of her well-deserved recognition.”
After attending American University’s Washington College of Law (AUWCL), Parikh worked as a housing attorney for Housing Conservation Coordinators, a legal service provider in Hell’s Kitchen. Many of her clients were low-income tenants whose landlords sought to evict them.
“A lot of my clients were being harassed—landlords would invent bogus claims to get them evicted,” she says. The job built on Parikh’s experience with AUWCL’s housing clinic and her internships with D.C.-based housing and homelessness organizations.
After two years as a housing attorney, Parikh was considering the next phase of her career. She thought back to a part-time job she’d held in her school’s career services office, supporting its public interest advisor. “I thought, ‘I want her job,” Parikh recalls.
She took a position coordinating pro bono work for Chadbourne & Parke LLP before becoming a public interest advisor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. In 2012, Parikh joined NYLS’s Office of Career Development.
“Our students are down-to-earth and motivated,” she says. “They come from different backgrounds, and in some cases, law school transforms their life trajectory and priorities. They want to find meaning and give back.”
Parikh urges students who are interested in nonprofit and government work to pursue it early.
“Public interest fields are very competitive, and employers want to see a demonstrated commitment to this work,” she says. The Bronx Defenders, she notes, often receives over 1,500 applications for its annual hiring class of around 10.
Parikh also emphasizes that while many students gravitate towards prosecutorial or public defense roles, the public interest field is vast.
“Students may not consider civil legal services as thrilling as, say, human rights or civil rights, but these are great areas of law that help address issues of poverty and provide rewards in the long-term,” she says.
Opportunities in those fields are growing: New York City is hiring nearly 250 housing attorneys in the wake of groundbreaking legislation that guarantees free legal help to any low-income tenant facing eviction. (NYLS now offers a Civil Rights–Focus on Housing Clinic to teach students the skills needed for this vital work.) In addition, the New York City Law Department is hiring around 80 entry-level attorneys for its Family Court Division, which oversees juvenile delinquency prosecutions for the city.
“There is a very big need for low-income legal services in housing, immigration, and poverty law,” Parikh says. “As a law student, participating in these clinics shows potential employers that you’ve already been in the trenches.”
- Learn more about City & State New York magazine’s “Responsible 100” list.