New York Law School Receives $5 Million Gift to Establish The Plumeri Center For Social Justice and Economic Opportunity


As it celebrates its 125th Anniversary, New York Law School (NYLS) is the recipient of a $5 million gift from Joe and Susan Plumeri through The Joe Plumeri Foundation. The gift will support New York Law School's nationally recognized practical training programs by establishing The Joe Plumeri Center for Social Justice and Economic Opportunity (“The Plumeri Center”). The Plumeri Center will be the home of the School's law firm where a diverse client base drawn from all of New York City will receive free, high-quality legal services. The Plumeri Center houses NYLS’s more than 20 legal clinics, provides the space for extensive simulation training in both the first-year Legal Practice program and upper-level courses, and includes a moot court room with an accompanying jury deliberation room. With a direct entrance from the street, The Plumeri Center will enhance the visibility and accessibility of the School’s clinical services, allowing the faculty and students to serve a wider array of clients in need of legal counsel and representation. The Center aims to be the premier place in New York City that clients can turn to for a breadth of legal services ensuring fairness and equal opportunity. The donation is among the largest in the School's history, and one of the largest donations ever to a law school to enhance clinical and experiential learning.

The Plumeri Center’s innovative mission, sophisticated design, and ground floor location will provide an unparalleled single access point for all of the Law School’s community legal services at walk-in street level, just steps away from the courts, administrative agencies, and the City's business and technology corridors.

“NYLS is immensely grateful to Joe and Susan Plumeri. Their generous and visionary gift will allow NYLS to fully realize the experiential learning model of a modern legal education, ensuring students have the practical training and knowledge to effectively represent a wide range of client needs,” said NYLS Dean and President Anthony W. Crowell. “Joe is someone who firmly believes that you learn best by doing. His recent advice to our students at Commencement was to ‘Go play in traffic and find out what is possible,’ and his donation will ensure that they have cutting-edge experiential learning and are ready for today’s legal job market. For law students, the experience of being lawyers—whether counseling a client on business development issues or making a presentation to a public interest law organization—can be a powerful way to learn.”

“The American dream is alive and well at NYLS,” said Mr. Plumeri. “It is truly New York’s law school, with a student body as diverse as New York City itself, filled with real people pursuing their dreams and who will help others pursue theirs. At The Plumeri Center, people looking for opportunity will find an open door for securing a wide breadth of legal services.” Susan Plumeri, Mr. Plumeri’s spouse, added, “The people whom The Plumeri Center will support have the same dream that Joe’s grandfather had when he came to America from Sicily. This gift to New York Law School will enable the School’s students to help their clients create new opportunities for themselves and their families for generations to come.”

Mr. Plumeri is currently Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors and Senior Advisor to the Chairman and CEO of First Data, a leading technology company that sits at the center of global electronic commerce. He is also a Senior Advisor to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a leading global private equity firm. Mr. Plumeri previously served as Chairman and CEO of Willis Group Holdings, a global insurance broker. Prior to joining Willis, he served as CEO of Citibank North America, Chairman and CEO of Primerica Financial Services, Vice Chairman of Travelers Group, and President and Managing Partner of Shearson Lehman Brothers.

Mr. Plumeri is the author of “The Power of Being Yourself: A Game Plan for Success--by Putting Passion into Your Life and Work.” The book illustrates his philosophy of “needing to play in traffic.” He encourages people “to get out there and live,” which is how he wound up at the door of Carter, Berlind & Weill as a student at NYLS in the 1960s. He was walking up the street from the Law School and saw a company with three names, which he thought meant it was a law firm. After asking who could speak with him about a job, he was told to go down the hall and talk with someone named Sandy. Mr. Plumeri explained his goal of working at a Wall Street law firm to get a practical education, while attending NYLS in the morning to learn the academics. Sandy (Weill) explained that it was a fine idea, but said Carter, Berlind & Weill was a brokerage firm, not a law firm. However, Sandy said he liked Mr. Plumeri’s moxie, so he hired him. Mr. Plumeri left school soon after starting to work at the brokerage firm, which was a predecessor to Shearson. In fact, he had a 32-year career there and with its successor companies.

Over the past three years, NYLS has dramatically expanded its practical training programs to ensure students have numerous options to gain hands-on experience in the area of their choice, by giving them the chance to work directly on transactions, litigation, or advocacy campaigns. The range of the clinical courses and their relevance to the New York legal, business, and hi-tech communities enrich the School’s unique experiential learning programs. As a result, NYLS has received national recognition. This past spring National Jurist magazine ranked the School #1 in New York State and #13 nationally in providing clinical opportunities to its students.

Building on a historic commitment to public interest advocacy for under-represented clients, typically focused on litigation, NYLS has differentiated itself from other law schools with the introduction of strong business-oriented clinics designed both to provide services to those who cannot afford representation and to give students crucial experience in the kinds of work they may later undertake in practice. These have already included clinics focusing on small business development, securities arbitration, tax planning for businesses, patent prosecution before the Patent and Trademark Office to assist innovators, and real estate/conservation. The Law School also has a clinic focused on social entrepreneurship, which seeks to design and implement solutions addressing root causes of social challenges through the development of business ventures that reflect innovative responses to social needs. Additionally, NYLS plans to launch a private entrepreneurship clinic that will help clients launch businesses focused on the innovation economy, providing legal counsel and assistance with finding venture capital opportunities.

In addition to the business-related clinics, The Plumeri Center houses clinics that serve the needs of individuals in matters such as immigration, civil rights, and elder law. As the needs of the community change, The Plumeri Center can be responsive, as with the introduction this fall of the Veterans Justice Clinic which will provide students an opportunity to offer legal assistance to low-income veterans on matters such as housing, access to benefits, and civil rights.

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