Public interest law generally refers to law-related work performed on behalf of individuals, organizations, or causes that would otherwise lack effective representation within the legal system.
Another way to think about public interest law is that it involves clients or issues that are not typically served by the for-profit bar. It is generally considered to encompass non-profit, most private, plaintiff-oriented practice and government employment.
Some public interest lawyers engage in “direct service” or “individual client representation,” representing individual, organizational, or governmental clients in adjudicative proceedings (e.g., litigation or administrative hearings) or transactional matters (e.g., contract negotiations or real estate deals). This type of legal representation is quite similar to that found in private sector settings, albeit involving very different clients and circumstances. Other public interest lawyers engage in law-related work that is not focused as much on individual representation as it is on bringing about social or political change. Such work may entail lobbying, policy advocacy, public education, community organizing, and/or class action or impact litigation.
Public interest employers hire independently and in an ad hoc manner, and students generally obtain positions through networking, direct outreach, and recruiting events. The largest national event is the Equal Justice Works career fair every fall.
Georgetown Law-sponsored Recruiting Programs
- PSJD.org (formerly PSLawNet) Resource Center
- Harvard Law Office of Public Interest Advising Career and Specialty Guides
- Equal Justice Works
- Panel on Public Interest Careers Georgetown Spring 2012 webcast
- Clinics at Georgetown
Print Resources (available in OPICS)
- PSJD (Formerly PSLawNet) Fellowship Guide