It's tough for law students to find time for anything besides studying.

But Charleston School of Law student Peter Kaufman managed to squeeze in 1,550 hours of pro bono public service in the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office.

That's the largest contribution of pro bono service hours of any student in the school's history, dean Andy Abrams said.

Kaufman, 38, is among 33 winter law school graduates who were recognized in an academic hooding ceremony Sunday.

Kaufman, who earned a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, worked as an on-air radio personality for 14 years before deciding to enroll in law school.

It was in that career where he got his first experience with public service work, he said. His station sponsored an on-air campaign that quickly brought in $50,000 for a young woman who needed a liver transplant. "It was the most rewarding thing I've ever done," he said.

The school requires students to perform at least 30 hours of free public service work as part of its graduation requirements.

Abrams said, "Graduates like Peter have been instrumental in the remarkable success that our law school has experienced. We are proud of their accomplishments and are confident that each of them will make a significant impact in the days ahead as leaders and change agents in their communities."

Kaufman said he put in most of the hours during the past two years. And his grades actually improved while he was working in the solicitor's office, mostly doing investigative research. He attributes that to seeing legal work in action on an almost daily basis. "Things just made more sense," he said.

He hopes to eventually land a job doing trial work in a solicitor's office.

But for now, he's going to study for the bar exam, which he'll take in February. Then he'll begin job hunting, he said.

And he'd advise others to do public service even if they're also busy with other things. "Always try to pay it forward," he said. "You have to give it away to keep it."

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.