Galilee 2024 ND Law First-Year students participate in annual Galilee Program, exploring legal work through public service

“I came to law school with a limited outlook on the work lawyers did and the role of lawyers in society,” said 1L Brandon Enriquez. “I wanted to see the different ways lawyers contributed to their community and used their expertise to promote good.”

Each year over winter break, Notre Dame Law School offers first-year law students the opportunity to participate in GALILEE, an immersive public interest and community engagement program in cities across the country.

Through GALILEE, students have the opportunity to meet with various legal professionals such as public defenders, prosecutors, legal aid attorneys, private firm attorneys engaged in pro bono work, judges, public policy advocates, and governmental law agencies in a city of their choosing.

Students in Minneapolis had opportunities to engage with attorneys from Fredrikson & Byron, a private firm; Mid-MN Legal Aid, a policy advocacy group; and Central Minnesota Legal Services, who serve low-income clients. The group also completed a service project for Wills for Heroes, an organization providing free estate planning services to first responders.

Galilee provides numerous advantages for students. It exposes them to a diverse array of legal practice areas, aiding them in discovering their unique calling within the field of law. The program allows students to delve into the legal landscape of a city they select and learn about the legal needs of urban residents facing economic challenges.

Aligned with the Law School’s commitment and mission to educate a “different kind of lawyer,” Galilee assists students in exploring how to integrate public interest work into their legal careers, whether through full-time positions or by engaging in pro bono work while employed at a private law firm.

“Our Galilee immersion program is an example of what makes Notre Dame unique. To be a ‘different kind of lawyer’ means to see firsthand what a difference a lawyer can make in communities across our country and around the world. Galilee is intended to shape those serving as much as it touches those served. In the end, our goal is to use law and legal services to help everyone experience the loving, creative presence of God.” G. Marcus Cole, Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law

In the last 40 years, Galilee has expanded to numerous cities across the United States, and sees participation from more than 100 first-year students – well over half of the class – each year.

Student participants collectively plan their team’s itinerary to include opportunities to meet with direct service providers, including legal aid clinics, government offices, and firms engaging in public interest or pro bono work. Groups also plan and complete service projects with nonprofit organizations.

The program also creates opportunities for students to foster connections with Notre Dame alumni working in those cities through networking events. This year students met alumni in New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Indianapolis, and at smaller gatherings in Austin, Atlanta, Dallas, Minneapolis, and Miami.

Chicago students visited several legal aid offices that serve low-income clients, government offices, and private firms like Kirkland & Ellis, Jones Day, and DLA Piper that serve the public through pro bono work. They also met with Judge Hon. John "Jack" Blakey, ’88, ’92 J.D., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Mariko Jurcsak and his team members in Honolulu, Hawai’i met with the Federal District Court of Hawai’i to learn about reintegration programs for incarcerated persons, as well as with public defenders.

“As a first-generation law student, Galilee is a great way to dip your toes into what it actually means to be a “different kind of lawyer” in practice. All of our interactions gave us new insight into what lawyers (both in the public and private sector) can do to make a difference in their community.” 1L Mariko Jurcsak

Galilee participants in Atlanta met with the U. S. Attorney’s Office, Judge Elizabeth Branch of the 11th Circuit Court, the pro bono team at Alston & Bird, and attorneys from Kids in Need of Defense.

“Galilee taught me that public service in the law is all-encompassing,” said 1L Alexa Hassell. “It does not concern only one area of the law or only certain types of legal work; instead, it encompasses general practice areas and one-issue practices, firm work and non-firm work, government work and non-government work.” Hassel joined the Galilee team in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area.
Galilee participants in San Francisco met with the San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium and the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office. “I learned a lot about the different routes that public interest can take,” said Mikela St. John. “Each organization had something different to say about their work and some of its challenges. They all shared a passion for serving the public, and ensuring a degree of work life balance in their own lives.”

Professor Robert Jones, associate dean for experiential programs, oversees the Galilee program.

"Notre Dame is blessed to have students who enroll with a genuine desire to serve. They sometimes lose sight of their motivations amid the intense pressures of first semester studies. Students report that Galilee helps them to reconnect with the reason they came to law school and inspires them to pursue their calling." Robert Jones, professor of law and associate dean for experiential learning.

Find out more about the Galilee program and its impact across the country here.