NB: Links in the following account that show the way PSJD used to look at various stages of its history are powered by Archive.org's Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine caches more than 327 billion webpages periodically, and is a powerful research tool for uncovering the history of key websites.
PSJD - formerly PSLawNet - has come a long way since its founding in 1989 at New York University School of Law as "Pro Bono Students." The idea behind PBS was simple: to create a database of organizations serving under-represented communities that law students interested in volunteering could search. Prior to PBS, no easy way had existed for law students to identify law-related volunteer opportunities.
The program was an instant success, and within a few years PBS expanded— first to law schools throughout the state of New York and then eventually to law schools all across the country. (Our list of subscriber schools indicates which subscribers were “original charter members” of Pro Bono Students.) By 1995, Pro Bono Students had become Pro Bono Students America (PBSA) and was collectively run by seven "regional centers". Each center represented member law schools in its designated geographic area by developing academic-year pro bono opportunities and helping "match" students with those opportunities. The regional centers were also expected to upload their regional listings to the PBSA national database so that students from all member schools could search for summer legal internships.
PBSA’s innovative technology allowed students to search for academic year and summer internships by geographic location and subject matter. It was markedly different from any previous public service legal resource, and it quickly became the primary research tool for students exploring public interest and government career options. Eventually, the database was expanded to include post-graduate fellowship opportunities and full-time public interest job listings as well. In 1998, PBSA’s name was changed to the Public Service Law Network (PSLawNet) to reflect its broader scope as a comprehensive, public service career resource and job search tool.
By 2000, PSLawNet’s membership had grown to more than 180 U.S. law schools and seven Canadian law schools. This evolution from its inception at just one law school led NYU in 2003 to decide that it was time for PSLawNet to be housed with an organization serving a more national audience. Many organizations were interested in acquiring PSLawNet, and NYU and PSLawNet’s Executive Council deliberated at some length before unanimously selecting NALP as its new home. The strong consensus was that NALP had the unique resources and energy necessary to sustain the tradition of excellence embodied by PSLawNet.
Since moving to NALP, the project begun at NYU has continued to grow and improve. Indeed, in August 2012 PSLawNet underwent not only an upgrade but also a ground-up redesign and rebranding: PSLawNet became PSJD, the Public Service Jobs Directory. The 2012 evolution included enhanced search functions, a redesigned career resource database, and more. More recently, the site received a variety of updates in 2019 bringing it fully into the era of the semantic web and changing its look and feel to reinforce its status as a NALP initiative.
Best of luck in using PSJD! Contact us at [email protected] or 202.296.0076 to learn more.