Assisting the Public

Public interest law can be defined as legal services rendered to groups or individuals not represented by private counsel. It includes legal aid offices, public defenders and programs primarily concerned with broad social issues and law reform in such areas as civil rights, women's rights, environmental protection, health, workers' rights, consumer protection, etc.

When hiring for legal services or public interest positions, employers look for people who are sensitive to those needing the services and who express a long term commitment to legal aid. Relevant experience in law school or prior to law school is a very important part of obtaining a job in the public interest arena. You should try to get some experience with groups working in the local community and take advantage of clinical or internship/externship programs. Volunteer work is also considered an indicator of interest. A potential employer will be as interested in your experience as in your academic credentials.

A Career Fair held in Washington, D.C. each year is sponsored by Equal Justice Works. Visit Equal Justice Works for more information about the career fair and public interest law in general. Because public interest jobs can be so difficult to locate and because public interest organizations traditionally have minimal recruiting budgets, the trend is toward recruiting at central locations.

A great online resource for information on public interest jobs is the Public Service Law Network (PSLawnet).  The Florida State University College of Law subscribes to the Public Service Law Network, which is the online clearinghouse for law students and lawyers to connect with public interest opportunities and information on public interest careers.  PSLawNet also includes more than 11,000 organizational profiles for nonprofit, government and other public interest employers spanning the globe.