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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

How Lawyers Can Work with Public Schools to Make a Difference


John Palmer is an associate in Orrick’s San Francisco office where his practice focuses on financing for school facilities, general obligation bond issues and city and county facilities and infrastructure. He is also the current John Palmerchair of the Barristers Club’s Lawyers in Schools Committee where he works with BASF’s diversity department on providing legal curriculum in the San Francisco Unified School Districts low performing schools. BASF's Jayne Salinger recently interviewed John.

Jayne Salinger (JS): How did you become interested in public finance?

John Palmer (JP): A combination of the fact that I really liked the people in the department and the department’s culture at Orrick and the fact that there would be a large public service component to my job.

JS: What kinds of bonds do you work on?

JP: At this point my practice focuses almost exclusively on helping California public schools access the capital markets for large construction projects and to address short-term borrowing needs.

JS: How do public school districts benefit from your work?

JP: I feel like by helping public schools finance capital improvements and manage their cash flows, I have a (small) part in improving the educational experience of the kids who attend them. I also think that Orrick puts particular emphasis on community service, and that this emphasis has made it possible for me to do other kinds of public service, like Lawyers in the Schools.

JS: As chair of BASF’s Lawyers in Schools program, what are your goals for 2012?

JP: I’m very excited about the Lawyers in the Schools program this year. In 2012, I have three main goals: (1) developing a set of core curricula for volunteer lawyers to use in the classroom, (2) expanding our reach into San Francisco’s middle- and high-schools, and (3) generating interest among the BASF membership and other lawyers in San Francisco.

JS: How do you see the legal community complimenting efforts of the district teachers?

JP: The younger kids that we talk to are very interested in learning about what being a lawyers is like and how to become a lawyer, and getting them some practical advice at an early age about what it takes to succeed academically and professionally is very helpful. At the high-school level, students are beginning to ask questions about the many ways that their lives intersect with the law. These are questions that lawyers are in a unique position to help the students work through, and which tie-in pretty neatly to what the students are already learning, whether that be a lesson on civil rights or more practical instruction on how and where to apply to college.

JS: How can attorneys volunteer for the Lawyers in Schools program?

JP: Contact me: 415-773-4246 or

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