Social Justice & Public Interest Concentration and Area of Focus

social justice

Even in diverse democracies committed to equality and justice, power imbalances can lead to persistent material and psychic inequalities. Social justice analysis and advocacy aim to not only identify those inequalities, but to also address the larger structural problems and long-term power differentials that create and perpetuate societal injustice.The Social Justice & Public Interest concentration is ideal for students with an interest in societal inequality and power differentials, particularly as it relates to class and economics, identity and civil rights, and the political process.

Spanning myriad practice areas, from civil rights and public interest, to administrative law and commercial interests, to tax and trade policy, social justice work is done in social, economic, and legal contexts, guiding critical analysis and transformative action across many sectors of society. Social justice legal advocates combine the law with other tools of social progress to not just help, but empower all targets of inequality in the struggle for enduring and substantive equality.

In addition to required foundational courses, the concentration requires students to select courses from a particular track, fulfill an experiential learning obligation, and participate in engagement and reflection with affiliated students and faculty.

Concentration Requirements

The Social Justice & Public Interest Concentration is 26 credits in total. 

 Required Courses (11 credits)

Administrative Law (4)
Constitutional Law II (4)
Fundamentals in Social Justice (3)

 “Engagement & Reflection” (1 credit)

Students are required to attend six speaker events, submit a 1-page single-spaced (minimum) reflection paper on the events to their assigned faculty mentor, and meet to discuss the reflection. 
Qualifying Speaker Events:
9/27, Peggy Browning Fund Workshop, Advocating for Workplace Justice Fellowship
9/30, Alicia Plerhoples (social enterprise lawyering)
10/24, Social Justice Brown Bag (Pro Bono Week)
11/2, Leigh Ann Buchanan, Venture Café, Miami (Public Interest Lecture Series)

 Research (2 credits)

Students must do at least one of the following:

  • Independent study on topic that falls within concentration
  • Seminar paper (on topic that falls within concentration)

Research Brownbag: students must present the product of their research requirement (e.g. independent study or seminar paper) at least once at an annual concentration brownbag.

Electives: Track Requirements

Because of the broad scope of social justice work, the concentration offers various “tracks” that students must select. Students must complete at least 9 credits from one of these tracks.

 Economic Justice: Electives Listing

Employment Discrimination
Labor Law
Poverty Law, Policy, and Practice
Representing Non-Profit Entities and Social Enterprises
Emerging Forms of Philanthropy and the Role of Private Foundations in Effecting Social Change
Federal Income Tax
Environmental Law
Alternative Dispute Resolution design systems
Mediation
A Social Enterprise Clinic
Public Interest Law, Ethics, and Leadership
Representing Nonprofit Organizations and Social Enterprises
Sources of and Responses to the New Inequality
Law and Social Justice
Mortgage Crisis
Sources of, and Responses to, The New Inequality
International Human Rights

 Identity & Civil Rights: Electives Listing

Race and Class in American Public Education
Housing Discrimination
The Religion Clauses
Religious Freedom and Same-sex Marriage
Voting Rights and Election Law
Race and the Law
Federal Indian Law
Immigration, Ethnicity and Public Policy
Selected Readings on Gender Violence
Immigration Law
Topics in Citizenship
Alternative Dispute Resolution Design Systems
Mediation
Public Interest Law, Ethics, and Leadership
Mass Incarceration
​Sources of, and Responses to, the New Inequality

 Government & Political Process: Electives Listing

Federal and State Arbitration
Implementing the Affordable Care Act
Election Law
Federal Policymaking: Legislation, Regulation and Litigation
Federal Income Tax
Military Justice
Legislation (usually offered as a 1L elective every other year)
Immigration Law
Environmental Law
Alternative Dispute Resolution Design Systems
Public Interest Law, Ethics, and Leadership
Law, Policy, and Technology
Sources of, and Responses to, The New Inequality
International Human Rights
Alternative Dispute Resolution

 Practicing Social Justice: Electives Listing

Civil Procedure II or equivalent advanced civil procedure course - e.g. Complex Litigation, Discovery, Class Actions (required)
Substantive course from any of the other three tracks (required)
Litigation Skills (only 3 credits count toward concentration/area of focus)
Litigation Skills II: Criminal
Mediation
Poverty Law, Policy and Practice
Law Practice: Social Impact Advocacy
Death Penalty Practicum
Cyber Civil Rights Practicum
Federal Policymaking: Legislation, Regulation and Litigation
Social Justice Externship (only 3 credits may be applied toward concentration/area of focus)
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Areas of Focus

The Social Justice & Public Interest Areas of Focus is 15 credits in total.

 Required Courses (7 credits)

Fundamentals in Social Justice Practice (3)
EITHER Constitutional Law II (4) OR Administrative Law (4)

Electives from Selected Track (see above) (6 credits)

 Research (2 credits)

Students must do at least one of the following:

  • Independent study on topic that falls within concentration
  • Seminar paper (on topic that falls within concentration)

Research Brownbag: students must present the product of their research requirement (e.g. independent study or seminar paper) at least once at an annual concentration brownbag.

Employment and Career Opportunities

The Social Justice & Public Interest Concentration provides students with the opportunity to deepen their substantive and practical legal knowledge and skillset, regardless of the areas in which they will ultimately practice.  For those students, however, interested in pursuing social justice and public interest employment opportunities, the School of Law can provide additional support and opportunities: 
Career Development Office Public Interest Job Search Information
HOPE Public Interest Resource Center
Information on Public Service Financial Support and Loan Forgiveness

See Listing of Social Justice and Public Interest Organizations by Track

What Our Alumni Say About the Program

Guerby Noel

"Social justice is critically important because it is progressive. We are looking at the law, not just as it stands but how we can shape it in the future. Social justice attorneys are always looking for ways to ensure that the underrepresented and disenfranchised are spoken for and protected. The social justice concentration considers the intersection of many different factors--race, wealth, gender, and more. It is wonderful that Miami Law has committed itself to training the next generation of social justice advocates to empower the community." - Guerby Noel, Legal Services of Greater Miami

Evian White

“The Social Justice and Public Interest Concentration at UM Law embodies why I went to law school. Being a lawyer was my path to being an agent of change in our community. Providing direct services to individual clients in a public interest career is crucial to the fabric of our community. But, the struggles those clients face are symptoms of much larger systemic problems. The magic happens when we are able to change the power dynamic of the structures that are causing those symptoms. Giving students the tools to understand this from the outset in law school means they will be able to hit the ground running as fellow agents of change.” - Evian White, Miami Beach Community Health Center, Inc.

Natalie Barefoot

"Race, wealth, pedigree, health, and education shape the decisions of the actors in our legal system and, consequently, its abilities to deliver. By taking a hard look, through the Social Justice Concentration, at these tremendously influencing factors, UM Law is elevating our conversations about what justice really means and how we can access it. These are important and hard conversations to be had. UM Law continues to innovate, and I cannot wait to work with this army of sophisticated, conscious lawyers looking at the context within which we work and endeavoring to improve it, for ultimate aim of serving justice." - Natalie Barefoot, Executive Director, Cet Law, Inc.

Fall 2017 Events

August 22, Forum on the First Amendment: Charlottesville, Speech, and Democracy
September 26, National Lawyers Guild Trainings
October 3, Second Chances Voter Restoration Training
October 10, 12:30 p.m., CDO Presents: Summer Opportunities in Criminal Prosecution, Faculty Meeting Room. Lunch will be served.
October 11, 12:30pm, Room F402, Immigration Advocacy Presentation & Volunteer Opportunities
November 14, 12:30 p.m., CDO Presents: Careers in Social Justice,  Rm. A110.  Lunch will be served.
November 15, 12:30pm, Room F408 Public Interest Lecture Series with Guardian Ad Litem.
November 16, 5:30 pm, Room D201 CDO Presents: Careers in Environmental Justice – Samantha Beers, Director of Environmental Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For further details such as times and locations, please check the Master Calendar

Faculty Coordinator

Professor Osamudia James