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Public Interest Law: General

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Transactional
Public Interest Law
General

Many public interest lawyers work at some time for an organization or government agency devoted to a particular economic problem or social concern. No matter the cause to which such a practice is devoted, the public interest lawyer is likely to need to take into account or appeal to policy considerations. Thus, some foundation in policy analysis and empirical research is helpful to a prospective public interest lawyer. Also useful is an appreciation of the context of specific legal problems, including an ability to explore alternatives from a variety of social, historical and political perspectives; and a willingness to assume a leadership role, whether in a government position or as an advocate for social change.

In addition, public interest lawyers spend a good part of their time as advocates. They may use their advocacy skills as litigators in the [...]

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Many public interest lawyers work at some time for an organization or government agency devoted to a particular economic problem or social concern. No matter the cause to which such a practice is devoted, the public interest lawyer is likely to need to take into account or appeal to policy considerations. Thus, some foundation in policy analysis and empirical research is helpful to a prospective public interest lawyer. Also useful is an appreciation of the context of specific legal problems, including an ability to explore alternatives from a variety of social, historical and political perspectives; and a willingness to assume a leadership role, whether in a government position or as an advocate for social change.

In addition, public interest lawyers spend a good part of their time as advocates. They may use their advocacy skills as litigators in the courtroom or in administrative hearings for clients who may not otherwise have access to the legal system. They may also use their advocacy skills to forge political and social change: from developing community “outreach” programs to other types of issue advocacy for nonprofit organizations. Students interested in public interest law should therefore work toward becoming effective advocates by developing the knowledge and skills required for advocacy and litigation.

Beyond that, given the broad meaning of “public interest law” and the variety of practice settings available, there is no single appropriate curriculum. Still, students interested in specific practice areas, such as criminal law, immigration law or civil rights advocacy, will want to take a sequence of substantive law classes and participate in clinical programs that focus on these areas.

 
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