Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration (CPIAC)

Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration

The Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration (CPIAC) takes the lead in infusing the law school’s public interest mission into all facets of the student experience.

While supporting the law school’s long-standing commitment to social justice, the center also pilots programs and initiatives that address broader justice issues. The center’s most recent projects have focused on applying design and data strategies to find new interventions in the Cradle-to-Prison pipeline, centering community lawyering as a practice method and connecting students with pro bono opportunities.


Through teaching, practice, research and networking, CPIAC seeks to enhance the role of law and legal practice in achieving social, economic, and environmental justice in all dimensions. Searching for innovative and holistic solutions to contemporary social justice challenges, we work across disciplines; we engage with academic, professional, advocacy and grassroots communities; and we develop approaches to legal education geared toward this mission.

Core Values

  • Upholding democratic values and working as a catalyst for systemic transformation on behalf of and in collaboration with vulnerable populations and communities that promotes the realization of social justice.
  • Promoting action-oriented research and public-policy initiatives, strategic collaborations and experiential, cross-disciplinary learning.

Institutional Goals

  • To assure that NUSL remains the premier public interest law school
  • To develop the best law school-based, interdisciplinary public interest law center
  • To develop the premier public interest “pipeline” by recruiting and training the next generation of social justice lawyers, and facilitating their entry upon graduation into fulfilling public interest careers.


Professor Lucy Williams

Professor Lucy Williams, an internationally recognized authority on welfare law and low-wage labor, as well as international comparative social and economic rights, directs the Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration.

Shannon Al-Wakeel
Managing Director

Shannon Al-Wakeel is the managing director of the Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration. A community lawyer and public policy advocate, she was previously executive director of the Muslim Justice League for five years. Shannon received her JD from Harvard Law School in 2010. She worked in the immigration unit at Massachusetts Law Reform Institute as a Kaufman Fellow and went on to serve as state policy director for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA).

Renay Frankel is Associate Director for Public Interest and Government at Northeastern Law's Center for Co-op and Career Development. In this role, she supports and advises  students interested in public interest co-ops and post-graduate jobs. Renay is also CPIAC’s Pro Bono Liaison, collaborating with CPIAC to develop and promote pro bono opportunities for students.

Renay joined Northeastern Law’s co-op office in 2017 after providing career advising to law students as the Assistant Director of Harvard Law School’s Office of Public Interest Advising. Prior to working in career services, Renay practiced for 8 years in the public sector. She started her legal career as a public defender in Roxbury, Mass., with the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS). She also worked as a housing attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. In 2009, she was the recipient of a Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship, which led to the creation of a unique position at the Committee for Public Counsel Services to expand the public defender agency’s holistic defense practice and address clients’ civil legal issues. In this role, she provided training and advice to court-appointed criminal defense attorneys in Massachusetts regarding the civil consequences of criminal cases. She also facilitated collaboration between the public defender agency, civil legal services providers and community partners in order to support public defender clients.

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