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What is Public Interest Law?

Austin Hall

Practice Settings

Public service practice takes place in legal services and law reform organizations, as well as in government agencies at all levels. It encompasses charities, educational and public international organizations, private public interest law firms and private law firms performing pro bono work.

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Federal government offices
  • Public defenders

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Work Types

For some people, the type of work they do is one of the most critical components of job satisfaction. Some lawyers are born litigators while others find trial work unpleasant. You may enjoy transactional work, which can be found in the public sector as well as the private sector. 

  • Administrative advocacy
  • Community outreach
  • Impact litigation

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Issue Areas

Many students come in to law school with a passion for a particular issue or set of issues, such as education or civil rights. Others develop a strong interest for a substantive area during law school. Public interest work covers a huge range of issue areas.

  • Human rights
  • Environment
  • Labor and employment

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International Public Interest Law

International law is one of the fastest growing legal fields and the types of public service work and practice settings vary widely.

  • Nongovernmental organizations
  • Intergovernmental organizations
  • Government international work

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Public Interest on Campus

There are lots of opportunities to gain public interest experience, including clinical and pro bono programs, student practice organizations, and journals. 

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Public Service in the Private Sector

Many public-service minded students and alumni spend part of their careers in the private sector. Private public interest firms, split summers, and law firm pro bono programs are just some of the ways to gain experience in both sectors.

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Last modified: June 24, 2015

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