Profile in Public Service - Ian Weinstein
“So many of us are invested in the story that we’re entitled to our privileges by our individual merit, and I just don’t see the world that way. I think fate plays a huge role. And so I think it’s so important that people who have the privilege of exercising authority devote some of their energy to redressing the many imbalances fate creates.”
At Fordham Law, Weinstein has academic and administrative oversight of 15 clinics, in which 20 full-time members of the faculty and hundreds of students provide pro bono legal work to those who cannot afford an attorney. While the clinics’ primary mission is experiential education, they are also part of a public interest law firm, providing legal services to hundreds of clients every year.
Weinstein earned his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1986. After obtaining his J.D. degree, Weinstein went on to earn his LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center. While at Georgetown, Weinstein was a Stuart Stiller/ E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow, representing indigent defendants in trials and supervising students litigating criminal cases in the law clinic. “I had an intense and sustained exposure to clinical legal education at both NYU and Georgetown and feel a profound debt to the extraordinary lawyer-teachers with whom I worked.”
From 1988–1991 he worked as a staff attorney for the Federal Defender Services Unit of the Legal Aid Society for the Southern District of New York. While there, he gained experience with federal criminal law, one area of his scholarly interest and a subject on which he’s written several publications. Weinstein also noted about his time in that office, “I did not recognize then how fortunate I was to start my career in the Southern District and appear before such smart, careful and demanding judges.”
“The Federal Defenders gave me sustained exposure to clients who came from backgrounds and circumstances very, very different from my own. The opportunity to help people in what for many, is one of the most difficult situations they will ever face in their lives, at a time when everyone else wants only to shun and punish them, was compelling. People often ask me, ‘How can you defend people accused of crimes? Isn’t it awful to work with such people?’ But I have to say, that work really spoke to me, and I’ve been so drawn to most of my clients.”
Weinstein joined the Fordham faculty in 1991 as an Adjunct Professor. He then became an Associate Professor in 1992 and a Professor of Law in 2002. He has been Director of Clinical Legal Education since 2006, and Associate Dean for Clinical and Experiential Programs since 2010.
In addition, Weinstein has served as executive officer and board member of the Clinical Legal Education Association, the largest law faculty membership organization in the United States. He is also the incoming co-chair of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. As the fourth full-time clinical legal educator to join the Fordham faculty, Weinstein has played an instrumental role in the advancement of Fordham Law’s own clinical legal education program.
As a clinical professor, Weinstein supervises students in live-client clinics and simulation courses in several areas, including criminal law and appellate advocacy. He is also very dedicated to teaching first year criminal law but says he feels a particular commitment to offering students direct experiences with clients as they advance through law school.
“I think there’s a distinctive educational experience that comes with meeting and forming a relationship with a person for whom you have responsibility, who trusts you with very important, serious matters in his or her own life. While I can’t provide every student with the experience of walking someone out of jail, I try to provide students with opportunities to form relationships with people who have legal problems.”
In addition to serving the public interest through his career, Weinstein engages in a wide range of volunteer activities, such as volunteer trips, service on bar committees, and advocacy around legal education. He is particularly committed to advocacy work surrounding the regulation of legal education and considers this work “a service to the bar and to the academy.”
Weinstein has also participated alongside students in several of Fordham’s Public Interest Resource Center volunteer groups. In 2006, 14 months after Hurricane Katrina, Weinstein and students from Fordham Law’s Student Hurricane Network (now the Disaster Relief Network) worked with the New Orleans Public Defender to secure the release of prisoners who’d been held illegally in the Orleans Parish Jail. In 2012 he supervised a group doing relief work in Breezy Point after Hurricane Sandy. As an active supporter of Fordham’s Public Interest Resource Center, Weinstein remains committed to making public service an important part of the experience for Fordham Law students.
“It’s absolutely essential for us to continue to build on the public service tradition at Fordham. It is such an important part of our identity as a school in the Jesuit tradition and of the special obligation to justice that defines our profession.”