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Public Interest Law

Advocating for civil liberties, promoting consumer rights, enacting policy change, or fighting for environmental protection – public interest law covers a huge range of issues. Lawyers play an important part in promoting social justice and protecting the rights of underrepresented populations.

Public interest lawyers handle matters that reflect broad areas of public concern – from housing discrimination to child welfare – and work on a variety of cases and causes. Law students who pursue a career in public interest law generally have a strong passion for helping others.

Academics

Cincinnati Law students build a foundation in public interest law by studying Constitutional Law in their first year. Most law school courses will be valuable for some aspect of public interest work. In their second and third years, students can tailor their schedule to focus on a particular area of public interest law.

Cincinnati Law also offers a joint JD/MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The capstone experience of the program is a semester-long externship that allows students to work at a national public interest organization, such as the National Women’s Law Center, Equality Now, and the Women’s Law Project.

Students interested in public interest law and social justice are strongly recommended to participate in at least one clinical course serving the needs of low-income clients in order to experience this type of work first hand.

Experiences

UC Law offers many opportunities for students to complement their classroom knowledge and build additional skills in public interest law areas. Clinics, which are offered for credit, allow students to practice client representation and advocacy skills.

Cincinnati Law students also can gain invaluable hands-on experience by spending the summer as a fellow working at nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies, or UN bodies.

Selected Course Electives

  • Civil Rights Litigation
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Current Problems in International Women’s Human Rights
  • Death Penalty Seminar
  • Disability Law
  • Education Law
  • Employment Discrimination
  • Family Law
  • Feminist Jurisprudence
  • Frist Amendment Seminar
  • Gender and the Law
  • Human Rights Seminar
  • Immigration Law and Policy
  • International Environmental Law
  • International Human Rights Law
  • Public International Law

The Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice provides experiential learning, research, and other opportunities for interdisciplinary inquiry for students committed to social change. The Center selects a limited number of students annually as Social Justice Fellows who research and participate in activities that seek to cultivate social justice scholars, leaders, and activists.

The Urban Morgan Institute (UMI) has educated and trained human rights lawyers to promote and protect human rights in the international arena for over three decades. The UMI serves as a model for many other human rights programs and emphasizes three areas: teaching, research, and service.

Cincinnati Law offers several journal opportunities that routinely address matters related to social justice and human rights. The Human Rights Quarterly is recognized as the leading academic journal in the human rights field. Published by The Johns Hopkins Press, the Human Rights Quarterly is edited by UC Law students overseen by Professor Bert Lockwood, Editor-in-Chief and Director of the Institute. The Immigration and Nationality law Review is an internationally recognized annual law journal and one of only two major student-edited American law journals focusing on the increasingly important field of immigration law. The Freedom Center Journal is a scholarly publication published jointly with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center that explores legacies of historic struggles for freedom in order to provide a better understanding of ongoing forms of subordination and to craft strategies for social change.

There also are many student organizations, such as the Tenant Information Project (TIP), and volunteer opportunities for students interested in public interest work. Any student who performs 15 or more hours of volunteer legal work receives an official transcript notation.

Careers

Lawyers working to promote social justice are employed in a variety of settings in both the public and private sector. Some lawyers work in federal, state, and local government agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where they investigate alleged cases of discriminatory behavior. Others work for nonprofit organizations advocating for and promoting the interests of their particular group. Other lawyers find their public interest career in a corporation or private practice, protecting the rights of individuals.

International public interest law professionals find career opportunities working for government agencies and organizations devoted to international issues, such as the environment, energy, and human rights.

Our graduates work in public interest law jobs around the world. They work at organizations such as:

  • UN Development Programme (Sudan)
  • Children’s Law Center (Covington, KY)
  • World Vision UK (United Kingdom))
  • ProSeniors (Cincinnati, OH)
  • California Rural Legal Assistance (Santa Barbara, CA)
  • Essex University Children’s Law Centre (United Kingdom)
  • Legal Aid Society (Cincinnati, OH)
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs (Sacramento, CA)
  • U.S. Dept. of State (Washington, DC)
  • Open Society Foundation (Washington, DC)