- Public Interest Law:
Practical Lawyering and Social Justice
Public Interest and the Public Interest Scholars Program
Pursue Your Passion for Public Interest Law
Many are inspired to pursue a law degree because they have a strong desire to build a society that provides every citizen with equal access to the legal justice system regardless of race, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin. 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.
Our Public Interest programs are enhanced by our active chapter of Equal Justice Works that has sponsored Street Law programs in greater Springfield and organized student travel to Mississippi to provide legal services to communities ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Equal Justice Works collaborates with the faculty, Career Services, and community organizations to provide students with a range of pro bono opportunities in Western New England University. Students have been selected as fellows in the Equal Justice Works Summer Corps program and the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Public Interest Fellowship program.
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.
Public Interest Scholars receive three-year tuition scholarships in values ranging from $16,000 up to the cost of full tuition.
In contrast to the Loan Repayment Assistance Programs at many law schools, which assist students with loan repayment after graduation, our Public Interest Scholar Program benefits students immediately.
Public Interest Scholars receive their tuition grants while in law school, dramatically reducing the need for incurring debt.
Summer Stipend Awards
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.
Ready to Apply?
To apply to become a Public Interest Scholar, please submit a résumé and an essay of two pages or less describing why you should be selected as a Public Interest Scholar. Your essay may highlight your aspirations as a future lawyer, your prior work history, public service and other activities, life experiences, and education that point to why you should be selected. The Public Interest Committee will consider your résumé and essay, as well as your entire law school application, in making its decisions. Please submit your resume and essay by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 1.
The members of the Public Interest Committee look forward to reading your essay and considering your application and to working and learning with you over the next three years.