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 psycho-social 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 (SJPI) Concentration and Area of Focus are ideal for students with an interest in societal inequality and power differentials, particularly as these relate to class and economics, identity and civil rights, and the political process. The SJPI Concentration and Area of Focus are also intended to fortify our social justice community at Miami Law, offering opportunities for students and faculty who are committed to social justice, racial justice, gender justice, environmental justice, economic justice/anti-poverty work, civil and human rights, and other public interest law areas to unify, reaffirm our common values, and push for an increased commitment to social justice from actors across society—including our own institution.

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.

In addition to required foundational courses, the SJPI concentration requires students to select courses from a particular track, fulfill an experiential learning obligation, engage in research and writing through an independent study or seminar paper on a topic that falls within the concentration, and participate in “engagement and reflection” with affiliated students and faculty. The SJPI area of focus has fewer requirements: it requires students to select courses from a particular track, and engage in research and writing through an independent study or seminar paper on a topic that falls within the area of focus (see additional details below).

SJPI Concentration Requirements

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

 Required Courses (11 credits)

Students are required to take Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, and a social justice fundamentals course.

  1. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW (4 cr); AND
  2. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW II (4 cr); AND
  3. A social justice fundamentals course, including any of the following:
    1. SOCIAL JUSTICE LAWYERING (3 cr);
    2. LAW PRACTICE: SYSTEMIC ADVOCACY (3 cr);
    3. LAW PRACTICE: SOCIAL IMPACT ADVOCACY (3 cr); OR
    4. SOCIAL JUSTICE ENGAGEMENT AND REFLECTION (3 cr)

 Distributional: Experiential Learning (3 credits)

Students are required to take an experiential learning course offered in the list below. Three credits from any of the below offerings may be applied toward the concentration.

CLINICS

Human Rights Clinic

Immigration Clinic

Tenants' Rights Clinic

Children and Youth Law Clinic

Health Rights Clinic

Innocence Clinic

Investor Rights Clinic

Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic

Environmental Justice Clinic

 

EXTERNSHIPS

General externship

CLI externship

 

PRACTICA

Cyber Civil Rights Practicum

Criminal Justice Reform Practicum

Death Penalty Practicum

Startup Practicum (if working on a social enterprise)

 “Engagement & Reflection” (1 credit)

Students are required to engage and reflect on social justice and public interest themes with their faculty advisor.

Speaker Events & Reflection Paper: Students are required to attend six qualifying speaker events (see below), submit ONE 4-6 page reflection paper on the six events to their assigned faculty mentor, and meet to discuss the reflection. The reflection paper should summarize the themes of each speaker event and provide overall reflections on the connection to social justice.

Note: Qualifying speaker events include the many on- and off-campus social justice events (lunchtime events, evening events, symposia, webinars, online trainings, meetings, etc.) featuring practitioners, jurists, activists, and/or academics that cultivate and facilitate discourse regarding social justice, public interest law, and public policy. All events featured on the HOPE website qualify. If students have questions about whether an event qualifies for this requirement, they can ask their faculty advisor.

 Research (2 credits)

Students are required to engage in research and writing on social justice and public interest themes. There are two components to the research requirement:

  1. Students must complete at least one of the following (2 credits):
    1. Independent study on topic that falls within SJPI concentration, or
    2. Seminar paper (on topic that falls within SJPI concentration)
    3. Note: A student’s SJPI advisor is expected to be available to supervise the independent study/seminar paper, or work with the student to make alternative arrangements.
  2. Research Roundtable: Students must present the product of their research requirement (e.g. independent study or seminar paper) at least once, at an annual SJPI concentration roundtable.

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 interested in pursuing social justice and public interest employment opportunities, the School of Law provides extensive support, networks, and opportunities: 

HOPE Public Interest Resource Center

Career Development Office Public Interest Job Search Information

Information on Public Service Financial Support and Loan Forgiveness

See Listing of Social Justice and Public Interest Organizations by Track

 

What Miami Law 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, Staff Attorney, Legal Services of Greater Miami

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, Staff Attorney, Earthjustice—Oceans Program

Faculty Coordinator

Professor Caroline Bettinger-López