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What’s What Law Student Handbook

Public Interest Law

Approved November 2007 The term ”˜public interest law’, encompasses many different substantive areas of the law. Public interest work is not confined to any one political ideology. It is the practice of law pursued on behalf of both individuals and organizations not typically served by the for-profit-bar.

For purposes of this certificate, ”˜public interest law’ includes working for civil legal services organizations, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and other similar entities to advance concepts of justice, fairness, and the well-being of the general public.

A. Overview

Students qualify for a certificate by satisfying six requirements (described in full below):

  • 3 “Level 1” courses students must take all three
  • 3 “Level 2” courses students may choose from a wide variety of courses NOTE: courses used for any other certificate will not count toward this requirement
  • 5 “Level 3” credits students may choose from a variety of applied skills offerings NOTE: courses used for any other certificate will not count toward this requirement
  • Paper “A” paper focused on public interest law.
  • GPA at least a 2.7 grade point average in courses used to qualify
    • Pro bono work at least 50 hours of pro bono work, as defined below
    • Other considerations
    • Topical focus Students can earn a Certificate notation of a topical focus by either: ! taking 3 classes from a single Level 2 category
    • ! taking 2 classes from a single Level 2 category and fulfilling the paper requirement with a paper in the focus area written independently of the two focus classes
  • Criminal & Environmental Law Students may use only one criminal or environmental class toward this Certificate, as outlined below.

For complete listing of the courses that qualify for each level and any special provisions for the Public Interest Certificate, see the website:http://law.lclark.edu/dept/lawreg/certificates.html

B. Writing Requirement. To obtain the certificate, a student must complete one paper that involves substantial independent research and, in addition, satisfies the following criteria:

  • The paper must concern one or more topics focusing directly on public interest law.
  • For students starting law school before the 2008-2009 school year: The paper must satisfy the criteria for the “A” writing requirement. If the Coordinator certifies that these criteria are met, it is immaterial whether the student actually uses the paper to fulfill the “A” writing requirement.
  • For students starting during or after the 2008-2009 school year: The paper must satisfy the criteria for the “Capstone” writing requirement. If the Coordinator certifies that these criteria are met, it is immaterial whether the student actually uses the paper to fulfill the “Capstone” writing requirement.

Note: A paper used for any other certificate will not count toward this requirement.

Students should plan ahead in determining how to meet the writing requirement. The student has the burden of ensuring that the paper topic and scope meet the Certificate requirements. If there is any doubt, the student should initiate a consultation among the student, the supervising faculty member, and the Public Interest Law Coordinator early in the paper process.

C. Grade Point Requirement. To obtain the Certificate, a student must maintain a grade point average of B minus (2.70) or better in courses taken and selected as qualifying for the Certificate. This requirement is subject to change depending upon any changes in the grading system or required mean that might be adopted by the faculty.

D. Pro Bono Requirement. Students seeking the Certificate must perform 50 hours of pro bono work (legal volunteer work done without pay or school credit) before they graduate. Pro Bono work can be completed during the school year, or during the summer. Pro Bono hours MUST be reported to the Public Interest Law Coordinator, and must be verified by the pro bono employer.

For purposes of the Public Interest Certificate pro bono work is defined in the following way:

  • Assisting attorneys of public service organizations in work directly related to the delivery of legal services to indigent individuals; or
  • Work for attorneys employed by organizations, to which donations qualify as deductions under state or federal tax laws (typically 501(c)(3)’s); or
  • Law-related work, not including law enforcement, for federal, state, or local government, including government agencies, courts, and judges; or
  • Work for an attorney or attorneys directly related to the delivery of legal services to indigent individuals or non-profits, where the retainer agreement specifies the attorney or attorneys are performing the work pro bono; and
    • All work by the student is performed without remuneration of any kind, either monetary or for credit. Work performed by a student under a stipend, partial stipend, or work-study is NOT eligible under the Program. Hours volunteered for an organization after a stipend has been used or after full Clinic hours have been completed DO count as pro bono. Volunteer work for on-campus organizations (i.e. PILP, EJA, etc) does NOT qualify as pro bono.
    • Students should plan ahead in determining how to meet the pro bono requirement. In particular, it is important to consider the following:
  • The student has the burden of ensuring that the pro bono work meets the Certificate requirements. If there is any doubt, the student should initiate a consultation with the Public Interest Law Coordinator early in the process.