Law students from more than 30 schools, including several in Washington, are organizing boycotts of campus interviews by 17 law firms that the AFL-CIO has charged with "union-busting activities," according to leaders of the boycott effort.

Student organizers, armed with leaflets, letters and a list of the 17 firms, kicked off their campaign Thursday at Georgetown University Law Center, saying they hope to stop their peers from attending interviews or taking jobs with these firms when campus recruiters arrive this fall.

"We can be the conscience of the legal profession," Duke University law student Lisa Maureen Smith said at a news conference. "We can withhold our labor."

Law students at Georgetown, American, George Washington and Catholic universities already have joined the effort, according to organizers, and students at Howard University and the University of Maryland have requested information about the boycott.

Students are using a list of firms compiled by the AFL-CIO. AFL-CIO lawyer Virginia Diamond said the 17 firms have gone beyond "the traditional labor law representation of management" and are heavily involved in "orchestrating campaigns, which essentially terrorize employees who want to come together and gain a voice on the job."

Some firms that made the list appear unperturbed by the boycott effort, which began in 1986 at Harvard University.

"The AFL-CIO is doing us a favor," said A. Samuel Cook, who heads the 30-lawyer labor law practice at Maryland's largest firm, Venable, Baetjer & Howard. Students "dedicated to the labor movement would not be comfortable in our practice, so we don't lose anybody," Cook said.

The AFL-CIO has taken issue with seminars run by Cook and some of his partners that teach employers how to legally "decertify," or eliminate, existing unions. "Management's role . . . in decertification is extremely restricted by law, and this is a seminar in what they can get away with," Diamond said.

Cook replied, "Neither management nor labor have halos . . . but here {the allegations} are way off base."

Cook has written a four-page response to the union-busting charge, which he vehemently denies. He said it will be given to any student who raises the issue.

Georgetown student Sandra Mazliah said she and other organizers intend to make this a visible issue on campus and will be seeking signatures on petitions by students pledging to boycott interviews.

Mazliah says she sees her job as educating students about this issue. "We are not saying that all unions should win," she said. "But people should have the opportunity to make up their own minds."