Public Interest Quick Facts
Public interest work is any work being done on behalf of the public and public interest opportunities exist in a variety of legal settings. Some of these settings are:
- Nonprofit Organizations: This category includes issue-oriented and client-oriented organizations. The issue-oriented organizations, i.e. the ACLU, conduct impact litigation by taking cases with the intention of creating legal policy and precedents that will affect large numbers of people on a particular issue. Client-oriented organizations, Legal Aid Society, provide direct legal services to poor or under-represented groups.
- Government and Public Defenders: This category includes thousands of municipal, state and federal offices nationwide. There are government offices that deal with just about every issue you can imagine. A public defender provides free criminal defense for defendants who cannot afford legal representation. There are public defenders offices on both the state and federal level.
- Executive/Administrative: This encompasses attorneys working for the United States Government, whether it is through the Department of Justice, or any other administrative agency, including the SEC, FBI, IRS, etc.
- Legislative: This would include attorneys working with the legislature, helping to draft legislation and/or render legal advice regarding proposed legislation.
- Law Firms and Corporate Counsel: Some law firms either emphasize or exclusively practice public interest legal work. Additionally, many law firms and corporate counsel are committed to pro bono work.
Public interest work can be in any number of practice areas including: Administrative law, AIDS/HIV, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Animal Rights, Appellate, Arts, Bankruptcy, Children/Youth,Civil Rights/Civil Liberties, Community Economic Development, Constitutional, Consumer Law, Criminal Law, Death Penalty, Prisoners' Rights, Disability, Education, Elder Law, Employment Law, Environmental/ Energy, Family Law, Gay/Lesbian Rights, Health/Medical, Homeless/Housing Law, Immigration, International Human Rights, Legislative, Litigation, Migrant Workers, Municipal Law,
Native Americans, Public Benefits, Tax, Women.
Careers in public interest usually do not happen by accident. If you want to pursue a career in public interest, it is important to gain experience in the field and network with other public interest attorneys from the beginning of your law school career.