In addition to general support and guidance for all law students, the CDO is dedicated to assisting students who desire to practice law in the public interest or who plan to make public service a part of their professional careers. The CDO helps students, beginning in the fall of their first year, identify public interest opportunities and assists students in finding funding sources for their work.
Careers in public interest usually do not happen by accident. For students interested in pursuing a career in public interest, it is important to gain experience in the field and network with other public interest attorneys from the beginning of one’s law school career. Miami Law’s HOPE Public Interest Resource Center is an excellent resource for information on public sector internships, summer fellowships and volunteer opportunities.
It is Miami Law’s intention that students leave law school with a strong public interest ethic. Whether students’ choose to practice public interest as a career or work in the private sector, experiences at Miami Law will leave students with a passion for pro bono work, no matter what they decide to do as a practicing attorney.
Public Interest Job Search Resources
PSJD: PSJD - formerly PSLawNet: Miami Law is a member of this unique online national network of over 2000 organizations that offer students a chance to connect to legally related public interest job postings and career-building resources. As a collaborative project among over 200 American and Canadian law schools, PSJD is a free resource for law students and alumni of subscriber schools to search among thousands of public interest job opportunities and employer profiles. Through PSLawNet a student is able to post his or her resume and make it available to public interest employers, as well as to research employers in a certain geographical area or subject area. PSLawNet is free for all Miami Law students. Simply go to www.pslawnet.org and click on "Getting Started" in the top left hand corner. The rest is easy! For any questions or problems with PSLawNet, contact Brenda Louard in the Career Development Office.
PSJD Summer Funding Resources Available for Work in Any Geographic Location: PSJD's resource pages for public interest law students searching for summer funding resources has detailed information on funding opportunities.
PSJD Summer Funding Resources Available for Work in Specific Geographic Regions: PSJD's resource pages for public interest law students searching for summer funding resources has detailed information on funding opportunities.
Other great resources include:
Common Good Career Advice: Commongood Careers is a mission-driven search firm, committed to supporting the recruitment and hiring needs of innovative nonprofits.
Equal Justice Works: Equal Justice Works organizes, trains, and supports public service-minded law students and is the national leader in creating summer and postgraduate public interest jobs.
Finding and Funding International Public Service Opportunities: Contains information about opportunities with the government, judiciary and non-governmental organizations.
Foreign Policy Association: The Foreign Policy Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring the American public to learn more about the world. Founded in 1918, FPA serves as a catalyst for developing awareness, understanding of, and providing informed opinions on global issues. Through its balanced, nonpartisan programs and publications, the FPA encourages citizens to participate in the foreign policy process.
Grassroots Roundtable: Opportunities with various grassroots organizations.
Idealist.org: Job listings in public service, including human rights positions throughout the world. If you enter your profile, Idealist will send you relevant listings.
MojaLink: MojaLink is a global collaborative network specifically designed for professionals within the nonprofit, philanthropic and international development sectors. It assists users rapidly find and connect with one another anywhere in the world.
National Disaster Legal Aid: Contains resources to persons affected by disasters, legal aid lawyers providing representation, and volunteer attorneys wishing to assist others.
National Legal Aid and Defender Association: Lists post-graduate jobs in civil legal services organizations and defender organizations. Searchable by state.
NALP: NALP provides many resources to assist career services offices in providing services to students, alumni and employers.
The Non-Profit Jobs Organization: Site listing opportunities with non-profit organizations.
Opportunity Knocks: Opportunity Knocks is a national online job site, HR resource, and career development destination focused exclusively on the nonprofit community. The site supports efforts that help further nonprofit careers and promote a robust workforce that enables organizations to complete their missions.
Philanthropy News Digest: Provides listings of current full-time openings at US based foundations, public charities, corporate programs and nonprofit organizations.
Private Public Interest and Plaintiff's Firm Guide: Provides listings of public interest and plaintiff firms throughout the United States. Guide compiled by the Center for Public Interest Law at Columbia Law School and the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising at Harvard Law School.
Probono Net: Pro Bono Net is a unique organization in its use of information technology and collaboration among the various parts of the public interest legal community.
Public Defender Handbook: For students looking for internships and post-graduate positions. Contains FAQs about the hiring process with examples of hypothetical questions and simulations as well as a listing of major public defender offices with entry level hiring.
Public Interest Specialty Career Guides: Prepared by Harvard Law School, this site features guides on a variety of guides focused on a particular practice area. Among the many guides are those on Private Public Interest and Plaintiff's firms, Civil Rights/Civil Liberties, Environmental law and Immigration and Refugee law.
Western New York Law Center: Contains job postings for attorney and intern positions in various public interest organizations in New York.
Public Interest Job Fairs
Career Fair and Conference, Washington D.C. (October)
Don't miss a great opportunity to meet with public interest and government employees throughout the country! The Equal Justice Works Career Fair and Conference is held each October in Washington D.C. The conference includes sessions where students can learn about starting a career in the public sector, about financing a public interest career, and about the many different opportunities available for law students and new lawyers in public service law. "Table Talk" is a highlight of the conference and gives students the opportunity to informally meet with more than 150 public interest and government attorneys from different organizations and agencies.
To view details of each employer scheduled to attend the career fair, including a description of the employer, the days the employer will attend, and available positions at the employer, please visit http://www.equaljusticeworks.org/employers/browse.aspx. There it is possible to search employers by issue area, state, or days attending. For students interested in interviewing with a particular employer, please make sure to follow the individual instructions given by that employer. The earlier one applies, the better the chances!
New employers will continue to sign up through mid-September.
The law school pays student entrance fees to the conference. For questions about Equal Justice Works, or to register for the career fair and conference, please contact Sajani Desai.
Summer Opportunities and Funding Sources
Students interested in gaining experience in the public sector have an innumerable amount of opportunities to gain experience in their field of interest during their summer break. The earlier a student begins his or her job search the better the chances are of obtaining a position in the field of one’s choice. A good place to start a search is at the Equal Justice Works Career Fair and Conference in October. For students planning on leaving Miami, it is a good idea to begin a search during the fall semester. Some metropolitan areas tend to hire all their summer interns by January. Others are always looking for an extra pair of eager hands. There are a few ways to obtain funding to work in the public sector, below are some of the more popular opportunities.
Miami Law HOPE Fellowships – This program enables law students to take volunteer positions at public interest agencies.
Equal Justice Works' Summer Corps program supports law students around the country who are working to expand the delivery of legal services to those who need it most. Summer Corps is an AmeriCorps-funded program that provides 315 law students with the opportunity to earn a $1,000 education award voucher for dedicating their summer to a qualifying legal internship at a nonprofit, public interest organization. Miami Law is a member of Equal Justice Works, which allows students to apply for these grants. The earlier one applies the better the chances are for obtaining the grant, as they are evaluated on a first come, first serve basis.
Florida Bar Legal Services Summer Fellowship Program involves the provision of high-quality legal assistance to the poor through various organizations across the state. Factors considered are: experience in working with the low-income community, academic achievement, writing skills, and previous contact and long-term commitment/interest in public service/pro bono work. Applications for this program are available in December and are due in early January.
Post-Graduate Public Interest Fellowships
echoing green (Deadline: early December)
echoing green provides seed money and technical support to individuals who develop a plan or project, which will impact specific community needs. The organization strives to fund innovative risk takers in the early stage of their careers, when most funders are unwilling to provide assistance.
Equal Justice Works Fully Funded Fellowship (Deadline: mid-September)
The applicant proposes a project involving legal advocacy on behalf of individuals, groups or issues that are not adequately represented by some aspect of the legal system. Fellowships last for 2 years and approximately 25 fellows are selected annually.
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson Fellowships (Deadline: early November)
The law firm of Fried, Frank et. al. co-sponsors two fellowships annually, one with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and one with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Fellows spend two years as a Fried Frank associate and then two years at LDF or MALDEF.
New Voices (Deadline: January)
The New Voices Fellowship program is a capacity-building and leadership development grant that assists non-profit organizations and individuals entering the field of human rights and international cooperation.
Pro Bono Legal Corp (PBLC) (Deadline: Various)
Created by President Clinton, Americorp members provide national service by working in Public Interest areas such as: Domestic Violence, Poverty, Homelessness, and Housing. PBLC members receive small living stipends, health insurance, and training expenses. Once a member serves for the required time, usually one year, a $4,725 educational award is made, which must be used for further education or repayment of student loans. There are Americorp positions throughout the country.
Skadden Fellowships (Deadline: early October)
Sponsored by the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, this program provides funding for civil legal services to the poor, elderly, disabled, and those deprived of their civil or human rights. Students propose projects to provide services within established organizations. Skadden selects 25 fellows annually.
The Wellstone Fellowship (Deadline: February)
The Wellstone Fellow will be engaged in Families USA's outreach to, and mobilization of, communities of color. The fellowship is designed to give an individual both a national and a local perspective on social justice work. The Fellow will work in the Families USA office in Washington DC and will learn about Medicare, Medicaid, efforts to achieve universal coverage and other health policy issues.
Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship (Deadline: Early November)
Since 1983, the Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program (WLPPFP) has enabled law graduates with a special interest in women's rights to work in the nation's capital with a variety of organizations involved in legal and policy issues affecting women. Those selected for participation are placed with different organizations such as women's rights groups, civil rights groups, Congressional offices, governmental agencies, and Georgetown University Law Center clinics working on women's issues. Since 1993 the Fellowship Program has also administered a program for women's rights attorneys from Africa (Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa Program, or "LAWA"). The LAWA Fellows participate in all program activities, and both U.S. and LAWA Fellows benefit greatly from this diversity and interaction.
Job Settings for Public Interest Work
Students are able to find work in almost any area of the law throughout the public sector. For example, if one’s career goal is to do divorce work for the rich and famous, try starting at Legal Aid – learn the principles of divorce law, meet the judges, and help people in need. If a student wants to own apartment buildings, investigate landlord tenant work with a Legal Services organization to see what the issues are. Or if one’s goal is to be a criminal lawyer, starting one’s career with the Public Defender's Office or the State Attorney is a good option.
Public interest work is any work being done on behalf of the public and public interest opportunities exist in a variety of legal settings. Some of these settings are:
- Nonprofit Organizations: This category includes issue-oriented and client-oriented organizations. The issue-oriented organizations, i.e. the ACLU, conduct impact litigation by taking cases with the intention of creating legal policy and precedents that will affect large numbers of people on a particular issue. Client-oriented organizations, Legal Aid Society, provide direct legal services to poor or under-represented groups.
- Government and Public Defenders: This category includes thousands of municipal, state and federal offices nationwide. There are government offices that deal with just about every issue imaginable. A public defender provides free criminal defense for defendants who cannot afford legal representation. There are public defenders offices on both the state and federal level.
- Executive/Administrative: This encompasses attorneys working for the United States Government, whether it is through the Department of Justice, or any other administrative agency, including the SEC, FBI, IRS, etc.
- Legislative: This would include attorneys working with the legislature, helping to draft legislation and/or render legal advice regarding proposed legislation.
- Law Firms and Corporate Counsel: Some law firms either emphasize or exclusively practice public interest legal work. Additionally, many law firms and corporate counsel are committed to pro bono work.
Public interest work can be in any number of practice areas including: Administrative law, AIDS/HIV, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Animal Rights, Appellate, Arts, Bankruptcy, Children/Youth, Civil Rights/Civil Liberties, Community Economic Development, Constitutional, Consumer Law, Criminal Law, Death Penalty, Prisoners' Rights, Disability, Education, Elder Law, Employment Law, Environmental/ Energy, Family Law, Gay/Lesbian Rights, Health/Medical, Homeless/Housing Law, Immigration, International Human Rights, Legislative, Litigation, Migrant Workers, Municipal Law, Native Americans, Public Benefits, Tax, Women.
WATCH: Class of 2020 Jessica Gomez interned with the The Catholic Charity Community Services & Immigration and Refugee Services in New York City. "I obtained this position through the Career Development Office here...through their help I was able to make contact with the supervising attorney...and secure the position."