Curriculum Guide · Curriculum
Public Interest Law
Georgetown is a leader among law schools in providing academic offerings in public interest law, which deals with the representation of people or interests that, through most of history, have been underrepresented in legal institutions and processes. Many lawyers practice public interest law by devoting their careers or volunteering their time to serving people who are disadvantaged or to advance public causes of various types. Some work for non-profit organizations (such as legal aid agencies or public defender offices), national or local governments, or international organizations. Others work in law firms but devote a portion of each year's work to uncompensated pro bono activities.
Students interested in learning about or practicing public interest law should consider relevant J.D. and graduate courses and seminars, and Georgetown's many clinical offerings. They should also consider non-academic public interest and government volunteer work and internships, especially if they want to pursue full-time public interest careers upon graduation or shortly thereafter. Students must demonstrate some background in public interest to be competitive for public interest post-graduate employment, and internships and other volunteer work are terrific vehicles for doing so. The Office of Public Interest and Community Service (OPICS) offers career and academic advising for students interested in public interest law and facilitates student pro bono activity.
Because public interest issues include every aspect of law, virtually all of the course offerings of the Law Center are relevant to students interested in a career in public interest law. Leaders in the public interest field tell legal educators that public interest lawyers of the future need to have a solid grounding in a broad range of law school subjects and that they should be skilled and creative problem solvers.
What does this mean for course planning?
First, students planning a public interest career should establish a foundation in courses most law students take -- including Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, and Corporations. Constitutional Law II: Individual Rights and Liberties is the Law Center’s basic offering in free speech, due process, and equal protection of the law. Administrative Law and Corporations address the legal framework for and issues related to dominant institutions in our society -- government regulatory agencies and corporations. Most public interest lawyers will intersect with government agencies and corporations during their professional careers. Some faculty members would add Legislation to this list. That course studies the theory and doctrine of statutory interpretation and provides an introduction to the legislative process. Finally, students who expect to litigate should take Evidence, which is prerequisite for a number of clinics and skills courses.
One course that is required for PILS students is open to other students as well. Professional Responsibility: Ethics in Public Interest Practice examines professional responsibility issues through the lens of public interest law practice and the representation of otherwise underrepresented groups and individuals. This course meets the Law Center’s professional responsibility requirement.
Students should branch out in their second year and sample a few specific areas of law that interest them, such as Civil Rights, Communications Law, Criminal Law, Disability Law, Election Law, Employment Law, Environmental Law, Family Law, Gender and the Law, Health Law and Policy, Human Rights, Immigration and Refugee Law, International Law, Labor Law, Public Health Law, Social Welfare Law and Policy, State and Local Government Law, and Taxation I.
Once you identify an individual area of interest -- for example, Environmental Law or Criminal Defense -- you should consult the relevant curriculum essay and faculty members in that area for more guidance about which courses and seminars to take.
The list of courses that follows reveals a wealth of specialized courses and seminars that build on these basic courses and allow students to examine in depth important social and legal issues. Just a few examples include the Advanced Health Law Seminar, Environmental Research Workshop, Homelessness, Povery, and Legal Advocacy Seminar, and Issues in Disarmament: Proliferation Terrorism Seminar. Students who plan a career in the public interest will benefit from writing a substantial scholarly paper in one of these seminars. Faculty members and the associate dean for research encourage and assist students who want to publish a scholarly paper.
The work of public interest lawyers is often part of a larger public policy debate. Faculty recommend a course in Economic Reasoning and the Law to students interested in public interest law because that course introduces students to the language and style of the economic arguments that often drive public policy decisions. To get some background in public policy, you may want to take up to six credits of courses in the Georgetown Graduate Public Policy Program, with Dean Bellamy’s approval. A university course schedule is available on the Georgetown University website.
In addition to getting a broad foundation and some depth in a particular interest area, students should add courses to their curriculum that build skills. The best “skills” training takes place in the Law Center’s 15 clinical courses. Two of the clinics, Appellate Litigation and the Center for Applied Legal Studies, meet the Law Center’s legal writing requirement. Students wishing to pursue public interest work immediately after graduation should seriously consider taking a clinic. In addition to providing exceptional training, clinics give students experience that helps demonstrate their commitment to the public interest.
Consider taking more than one writing seminar, including those that require different forms of legal writing. If you do not take a trial clinic, you might want to take Trial Practice, a small enrollment course in which you learn and practice trial skills, culminating in a mock trial. In addition, you may want to take one of the courses in the Alternative Dispute Resolution cluster, such as Negotiations or Multi-Party Dispute Resolution Seminar. The skills learned in these courses are applicable in virtually every practice setting. Negotiation and Mediation in a Public Interest Setting focuses on negotiation theory and practice as applied in a variety of public interest practice settings.
Some seminars in the Public Interest cluster stress problem solving approaches to legal problems, such as the Homelessness, Poverty, and Legal Advocacy Seminar and the Housing Today: Lawyering Affordable Housing Seminar. These seminars provide an opportunity to learn how to approach a key issue from a variety of legal, policy and advocacy approaches. Professor Charles Lawrence’s year-long seminar, Public School Reform: Policy, Practice and the Law Seminar, gives students an opportunity to work on current issues related to the D.C. Public School System, in conjunction with school reform advocates and/or individuals within the school system.
If you envision yourself working in or heading up a public interest organization, you will want to take the Nonprofit Organizations Seminar, which covers the formation and governance of nonprofit organizations. A course in the graduate school, Tax Treatment of Charities and Other Nonprofit Organizations, addresses the tax treatment of nonprofit organizations in depth.
The course, Doing Well and Doing Good: Enhancing Pro Bono at Major Law Firms focuses on the tension between the realities of practice in large law firms and the public service obligation of the profession. Students in the seminar develop a plan to enhance or introduce a pro bono project at a law firm.
Appellate Litigation Clinic
Center for Applied Legal Studies
Community Justice Project
Criminal Defense and Prisoner Advocacy Clinic
Criminal Justice Clinic
Domestic Violence Clinic
Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic
Harrison Institute for Public Law: Housing and Development Clinic
Harrison Institute for Public Law: Policy Clinic
Institute for Public Representation
Babcock, Hope (Offered)
Campbell, Angela J. (Offered)
Nicholls, Leah M.
Wolfman, Brian (Offered)
International Women's Human Rights Clinic
Juvenile Justice Clinic
Law Students in Court
Ahn, Kathy (Offered)
Bentzen, Marc (Offered)
Goemann, Richard C. (Offered)
Neal, Nathan A.
Neal, Nathan A.
Parker, Ara D.
Parker, Ara D.
Pettus, Brandee A.
Pettus, Brandee A. (Offered)
Street Law: Community
Street Law: High School
Access to Health Care and Coverage: Law and Policy
Administrative Agencies, Congress, and the Federal Courts
Cashin, Sheryll D. (Offered)
Heinzerling, Lisa (Offered)
Long, Robert A. (Offered)
Silberman, Laurence H. (Offered)
Super, David A.
Tankersley, Michael E.
Vladeck, David C. (Offered)
Advanced Criminal Procedure
Advanced Torts: Constitutional Torts
Class Action Law and Practice
Constitutional Law II: Individual Rights and Liberties
Barnett, Randy E. (Offered)
Bloch, Susan L. (Offered)
Cook, Anthony E.
Edelman, Peter B. (Offered)
Gottesman, Michael H.
Krash, Abe (Offered)
Peller, Gary (Offered)
Spann, Girardeau A. (Offered)
Wasserstrom, Silas J.
Contemporary Issues in Economic Justice and Foreclosure Mediation Experiential Learning
Katyal, Neal K. (Offered)
Tague, Peter W. (Offered)
Wales, Heathcote W.
Wasserstrom, Silas J. (Offered)
Disability Discrimination Law
Election Administration and the Law
Babcock, Hope (Offered)
Buzbee, William W.
Percival, Robert V.
Schiffer, Lois J. (Offered)
Siff, Scott A. (Offered)
Family Law: A Domestic Violence Perspective
Federal Money: Policymaking and Budget Rules
Food and Drug Law
Gender, Race and Criminal Law
Health Law and Policy
Higher Education and the Law
Immigration Law and Policy
Information Privacy Law
International Environmental Law
International Human Rights
International and Comparative Law on Women's Human Rights
Labor Law: Union Organization, Collective Bargaining, and Unfair Labor Practices
Law and Development
Law and Regulation of Drugs, Biologics and Devices
Local Government Law
Managing National Security
Mental Health Issues in Criminal Law
National Security Crisis Law
Natural Resources Law
Professional Responsibility: Ethics in Public Interest Practice
Public Health Law and Ethics
Public Interest Advocacy Seminar
Race and American Law
Refugee Law and Policy
Contemporary Peacekeeping: Legality, Legitimacy & Accountability
Energy Trading and Market Regulation I
Energy Trading and Market Regulation II
Global Health Law
International Human Rights Law
International Trafficking in Persons
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Law & Policy: Preventing Nuclear Terrorism
Tax Treatment of Charities and Other Nonprofit Organizations
Health and Human Rights
International Trade and Health
International Trade, Development & the Common Good
International Women’s Human Rights Seminar
Intersection of National Security and Race in a Post-9/11 America
National Security Implications of Immigration Law
Restorative Justice In International Human Rights: A New Paradigm
Advocating with and on behalf of People with Developmental Disabilities: Contemporary Issues, Challenges, and Legal Advocacy Opportunities
Animal Protection Litigation Seminar
Child Welfare Law and Practice in the District of Columbia
Decriminalizing Mental Illness: Prison Reform Advocacy in Litigation and Beyond
Immigration Law and the Rights of Detained Immigrants
Monopolies, Competition and the Regulation of Public Utilities
O’Neill Institute Practicum: Global Health Law and Policy
Poverty Law and Policy Seminar
Problem Solving Justice: Developments in Treatment, Diversion and Community Courts
Public Interest Advocacy: Government Regulation of Tobacco and Personal-Care Products
Public Interest Lawyering: Access to Health Care
Regulatory Agency Litigation: Roles, Skills and Strategies
Rule of Law Promotion and Civil Society in China: Women, the Elderly and the Demographic Consequences of China’s One-Child Policy
Advocacy Tools for the 21st Century Public Interest Lawyer
Aging and Law Seminar
Alternative, Complementary, and Integrative Medicine, The Legal Issues
Bulen, James A. (Offered)
Cohn, Sherman L. (Offered)
Fortsch, Gregory W. (Offered)
Missner, Jonathan E.
Bioethics and the Law Seminar
Capital Punishment Seminar
Child Abuse and Neglect Law Seminar
Christian Ethics & Economic Justice Seminar
Civil Rights Policy Seminar
Class Action Law and Practice Seminar
Community Lawyering Seminar: Dismantling Structural Racism and Creating Social Change
Comparative Consumer Protection Law Seminar
Constitutional Law Seminar: Suing the Sovereign
Corporate Governance Seminar
Election Law and the Supreme Court Seminar
Environmental Law Enforcement
Federal Investigations and Prosecutions
First Amendment Litigation Seminar: Exploring the Strategic Decision-making Role of Lawyers
Food Law Seminar
Fourteenth Amendment Seminar
Free Press Seminar
Homelessness, Poverty, and Legal Advocacy Seminar
Housing Today: Lawyering Affordable Housing Seminar
Human Rights and US National Security Seminar
Human Rights at the Intersection of Trade and Corporate Responsibility
International Efforts to Combat Corruption Seminar
International Law Seminar: Use of Force and Conflict Resolution
International Migration and Development
Issues in Disarmament: Proliferation and Terrorism Seminar
Law Firm Economics and the Public Interest: Advancing the Commitment to Pro Bono Publico through Law Firms and Other Legal Institutions
Law and Politics of Selecting State Judges (formerly Selecting State Court Judges)
Law and Psychiatry Seminar
Law and Religion Seminar: Accommodating the Liberty of Conscience
Law in a New Media World
Law of Emergency Seminar
Law, Conscience, and Nonviolence Seminar
Literacy and Law Seminar
Local Government Law Seminar
Non-Profit Organizations Seminar
Private Enforcement of Labor and Environmental Standards in Global Supply Chains Seminar
Public Health Law and Ethics
Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies: Advanced Research Seminar
Role of In-House Counsel at a Nonprofit
Rule of Law and the Administration of Justice
Sexuality, Gender and the Law Seminar
State Government Seminar: A Practitioner's Perspective
Statelessness and the Right to a Nationality
Strategic Intelligence and Public Policy Seminar
The UN Human Rights System Seminar
U.S. Voting Rights: A Practical Perspective
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