Not really true. Most public interest orgs will not hire you until you have a barcard. They really have little, if any, use for you until you do.
Everything is not about prestige. Your public interest clients could care less what law school you went to, or what fellowship you got. They want to know if you can help them. Same with a lot of hiring managers.
I had three interviews with public interest orgs, including the one that I'm working with now--and another organization that is nationally known. No one cared about my grades. They wanted to know what practical experience I had that equipped me to handle the position. Real hands on, trial simulation, clinicals--all things you can be exposed to in any quality law school--even one with only a "regional" reputation. Most of the people that work in my office graduated from the law school in the same city-- and it is not a tier 1 school.
Public interest orgs normally hire on an as needed basis. Good grades and experience are not a guarantee for a PI job before or even after graduation--even with the ACLU or other "more prestigious" organizations. They don't even really make it more likely. PI jobs aren't like firms--most of them are not going to hold a place for you until you take and pass the bar. They have too many people that need to be helped--and, too many people that have already passed the bar and are willing to help.
Right. I'm just trying to say your grades and your school matter in what kind of public interest jobs you can get and when you can get them. Better school and better grades (all other things equal, such as internships) make it a lot more likely you will be able to get a more prestigious impact-litigation job at ACLU or Public Citizen.
If you're into legal services, top credentials that get you those fellowships also mean that you can get that legal services job in November or December instead of late spring of 3L year or after the bar.
While it's true that in regular hiring for legal services or public defender jobs, school doesn't matter as much as a big law firm or public interest fellowships, but it still matters.
True--but lots of people get into public interest without it. Its not a bar to entry like biglaw. Some people aren't necessarily looking for "prestige." The people who stay in it --its really more about the heart.
On the other hands, grades and top school matter a lot for public interest fellowships (EJW, Skadden)
Not nearly as much. In fact, I would say that after you pass the bar, it matters very little, especially if you have great clinical /practical experience. With some of the government type orgs, like the ACLU, they might care about class rank and school, but others, not as much.
How big a deal does your school factor into your ability to get PI jobs?
(the old rank vs. $$$ debate, but for people planing on PI).