Public Interest Law Course Suggestions

The field of “public interest” law could include the entire range of substantive areas of law because the term “public interest” is poorly defined and hotly contested.  Students who want a public interest career should think broadly and creatively about what such a career might be.  It could include civil rights litigation, poverty law, consumer protection, environmental law, labor and employment law, immigration law, or election law, among many other areas of specialty. It could include corporate or transactional work to promote community economic development, public-private projects to finance affordable housing, environmental protection, or school improvement.  Some public interest lawyers litigate frequently, some never litigate. On account of variety of possible public interest careers, an aspiring public interest lawyer might consider taking many different courses in the curriculum.

We have tried to identify some of the courses you should consider for a variety of possible public interest careers, but we caution you to think creatively and to talk to faculty and to lawyers about the knowledge and skills public interest lawyers in various fields should have. We have also noted the clinics that may be most likely to teach relevant skills and knowledge, but we note that many of the skills learned in clinical placements are transferrable to other practice settings.

Some courses might be foundational regardless of the area of practice you choose:  anyone who anticipates a litigation career in federal court should take Evidence and Federal Courts, and perhaps Trial Practice or Appellate Practice. Administrative Law is foundational for a number of public interest careers. Those who anticipate advising nonprofits should consider Business Associations, the basic Federal Income Tax, and the course on the organization and taxation of non-profits. Those who aspire to become cause lawyers surely would benefit from taking Cause Lawyering, Civil Rights Litigation, and/or Constitutional Law: First Amendment.

There are, in addition, many other courses in the 2011-2012 curriculum that might be of interest to aspiring public interest lawyers, including courses on law firm management (such as one offered in the Spring Quarter at the Business School on managing non-profits), courses on identity (such as Critical Identity Theory or Crime, Identity, and the Law), and courses on particular technical or other skills (such as Statistics for Lawyers).  And, finally, any public interest lawyer can benefit from broad intellectual training of the sort that might be offered in law school courses such as Interdisciplinary Perspectives or courses elsewhere at UCI in departments such as Criminology, Law & Society.

1.   Immigration

  • Administrative Law
  • Federal Courts
  • Immigration Law
  • Immigration Clinic or Appellate Litigation Clinic

2.   Labor and Employment

  • Employment and Employment Discrimination Law
  • Evidence
  • Federal Courts
  • Immigration Law
  • Labor Law
  • Trial Practice or Appellate Practice
  • Department of Fair Employment and Housing Clinic or Immigrant Rights Clinic
3.   Community Economic Development
  • Administrative Law
  • Business Associations
  • Federal Income Tax, and perhaps Partnership Tax
  • Insurance Law
  • Negotiation
  • Organization, Operation and Tax Aspects of Non-Profit Organizations
  • Property or Land Use and Development Control
  • Advanced Legal Writing: Business Drafting
  • Community Economic Development Clinic

4.   Civil Rights Litigation

  • Administrative Law
  • Civil Rights Litigation
  •  Evidence and/or Trial Practice
  • Federal Courts
  • Constitutional Law:  First Amendment
  • Remedies
  • International Human Rights Clinic or Appellate Litigation Clinic or Department of Fair Employment and Housing Clinic

5.   Environmental

  • Administrative Law
  • Business Associations
  • Environmental Law
  • Land Use and Development Control Law
  • Property
  • Environmental Law Clinic

6.   Poverty Law and Consumer Protection

  • Administrative Law
  • Advocating for Vulnerable Children
  • Consumer Law and/or Consumer Bankruptcy
  • Family Law or Community Property
  • Community Economic Development Clinic