Many students come to law school wanting to do “public interest” work and almost as many do not know the full range of opportunities available to them. Public interest lawyers work in a wide variety of substantive areas in a range of contexts, from direct representation of clients in fair housing matters to environmental impact litigation, and they work across a broad cross-section of political and ideological interests. Broadly conceived, public interest law includes work for any entity that does not have a profit-making goal. Obviously, you can find public interest lawyers in nonprofit organizations across the political spectrum, but you’ll also find them in labor unions, government agencies, universities, prosecutors and public defenders offices, and private public interest law firms. A private public interest firm typically represents public agencies and community groups and sustains itself by attorney fee awards, not directly charging clients for the most part. Some lawyers serve the public interest by volunteering a part of their time to pro bono activities while employed by a law firm, while others devote whole careers to serving causes or groups that are not adequately represented by the private bar.
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