Public Interest Law

If you are entering the legal profession to pursue a career path in public interest law, you will find support, guidance, and a welcoming environment at Western New England University School of Law.

A commitment to the public interest—pro bono publico—is embedded in the culture and curriculum at the Western New England University School of Law. Many faculty members are engaged in public interest advocacy and scholarship. Their range of interests include antidiscrimination law; feminist theory; civil liberties; gay, lesbian, and transgender studies; workplace rights; poverty law; critical race theory; environmental law; and health care policy. The School of Law’s commitment to students interested in pursuing a career in public interest law encompasses scholarships opportunities, classroom teaching, clinical courses, externships, and extracurricular activities.

The School of Law offers an array of courses to prepare you for a career in public interest lawyering and a range of outstanding clinical and externship opportunities, along with a strong mentoring program providing advice and support in course selection, clinical and externship options, and career paths. We also have regularly scheduled programs with faculty and attorneys who practice in various public interest arenas to discuss the ethical, theoretical, and practical dimensions of public interest legal work.

Student Groups

These groups are formed by students interested in the subject matter that each makes the focus of its activities. Many of the organizations, including the Public Interest Law Association, Alternative Spring Break Club and Environmental Law Coalition engage in public interest activities. 

Public Interest Clinical and Externship Opportunities

In the context of our flexible curriculum, students can focus their academic instruction, clinical education, and externship opportunities in legal areas such as anti-discrimination law, legal services to individuals with HIV-AIDS, civil rights, tenants’ rights, domestic violence, immigration, civil liberties, workplace rights, consumer protection, and poverty law. Students are encouraged to participate in and apply to various opportunities to gain practical skills while engaging in public interest work.

Students selected to participate in the Legal Services Clinic work in the offices of Community Legal Aid representing low income clients in the family, housing, elder, benefits, or employment units, and participate in a seminar focusing on topical issues in the areas of poverty law and the ongoing challenge of providing equal access to justice for those living in underserved communities.

The Housing Clinic offers selected students an opportunity to represent clients with complaints against landlords in the Springfield Housing Court.

In the Criminal Law Clinic, selected students work with the District Attorney’s office, handling arraignments and prosecuting misdemeanor and felony cases in the motion and trial sessions of the Hampden County District Court.

Student participating in the International Human Rights Clinic work collaboratively with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, grass-roots organizations, solidarity networks, attorneys, stakeholders, and other institutions engaging in human rights work, to advance political, economic, social and cultural human rights across borders.

Please view the Clinical Program Brochure, which provides an overview of all clinical opportunities available to law students at Western New England University School of Law.

In addition to clinical opportunities, the Public Interest Externship Program makes a semester-long experience in an approved nonprofit organization or governmental agency available to selected students. Students engage in a variety of lawyering tasks under the supervision of a practicing attorney and participate in a biweekly seminar that focuses on professionalism, ethics, and public interest lawyering.

Public Interest Scholars Program

Western New England University School of Law’s support for Public Interest Lawyering includes the establishment of a $1.75 million endowed fund to support its Public Interest Scholars Program. Each year, the School of Law selects six Public Interest Scholars from its pool of applicants who have a demonstrated commitment to public interest work. These scholars receive significant tuition scholarships and a summer stipend to participate in public interest legal work.

In addition to the tuition scholarships, Public Interest Scholars are awarded a one-time public interest stipend of $3,500 for approved public interest work in the summer months after the first or second year of law school.