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Public interest law is not a specific substantive area of the law like intellectual property law or tax law. Public interest lawyers work with a wide range of subject areas, from INTERNATIONAL human rights issues to EMPLOYMENT discrimination 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. Such an entity may be a nonprofit, a government agency, or a private public interest firm. A private public interest firm typically represents public agencies and community groups and sustains itself by attorney fee awards. Public interest lawyers may also provide direct services to individual clients, who may require help with either civil or criminal matters.

Public Interest Law is practiced across a wide variety of areas and settings, so you can expect to find public interest lawyers in all four “Directions” of the SLS Navigator Tool: Academia, Litigation, Regulatory & Policy, and Transactional. One way for public interest students to use this Navigator tool is to click on a specific Path and leave all Directions open. This enables a view of all potentially relevant courses.

Given the broad meaning of “public interest law” and the variety of practice settings available, there is no single appropriate curriculum. There are a handful of GENERAL courses that students should consider, but most public interest-oriented students will want to focus on a particular specialty area, like CRIMINAL LAW, HEALTH care, EDUCATION policy, or CIVIL RIGHTS advocacy, and takes classes and clinics primarily in that area.

Please note that some public interest subject areas have been highlighted as a Path, but many have not because there are so many subject areas that can be considered public interest. Thus, we encourage students to follow up with LEVIN CENTER staff for counseling.

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