Top Public Interest Law Schools in the US

We’ve been posting a series of articles ranking law schools all over the country in area-specific programs. Check out a few others.

This article focuses on the best public interest law schools in the U.S., and for good reason. Getting a job in the public service industry is one of the best ways to eliminate that hefty law school debt after 10 years. Why? Because of Loan Repayment Assistance Programs.

The best part is, there is some kind of public interest law out there for everyone. You could work for a non-profit organization or for the government. Maybe a defense attorney or a prosecutor. There’s any number of jobs available in the government, some of which include doing very large real estate deals, drafting contracts, and even intellectual property law.

And to top it off, you won’t have that pesky billable hour nagging at you like you would at a for-profit law firm.

So, without further ado, here are a few fantastic public interest law schools you might want to consider.

1. New York University Law School

New York University Law School is the gold standard when it comes to public interest law schools. Since 1992, the school has run the Public Interest Law Center. The whole law school promotes awareness in the public sector, and nearly half of the first-year law students spend their first summer working at public interest internships, while hundreds of other students do public service in student run pro bono organizations.

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The school runs a public interest mentorship program for students with an interest in public interest law. It also funds students pro bono work during the summers, and holds an annual public interest legal career fair.

2. Northeastern University School of Law


Northeastern University School of Law - Public Interest
Based in Boston Massachusetts, Northeastern School of Law has a very strong public interest program. According to the school, it requires all students to look at public interest law in some form.

Northeastern, like many law schools, has a public interest requirement at the school. They require that students complete at least 30 hours of uncompensated legal work in a public interest setting. To help the students out, the school created what it calls a Public Interest Co-Op, where students are paired up with an organization that gives them real world experience. At least 85% of the students there participate in the Co-Op.

3. American University Washington College of Law


American University Washington College of Law - Public Interest Law Schools

Photo by NCinDC – Flickr
Like the other law schools in this list, American University also promotes public interest work among the students. The law school also has a very unique clinical program. Its clinical program is actually a fully operational law firm inside the law school. It’s divided into 10 in-house clinics, all of which focus on some area of public interest law.

Additionally, the law school offers up to five three-year, full tuition scholarships to students with a clearly demonstrated commitment to public interest. That alone makes this school worth a look.

4. UCLA Law School


UCLA School of Law - Public Interest

Photo by Coolceasar – Wikipedia
UCLA School of Law offers a specific curriculum for students that want to dive into public interest law. It’s a pretty rigorous program with a special curriculum for first years, which is very unique to law schools. Coming out of this program will have students very ready to practice public interest law.

5. City University of New York School of Law


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City University of New York (CUNY) - Public Interest Law

Photo by New York Law School

City University of New York, or CUNY law school, is strictly a public interest law school. They offer lots of clinical opportunities, where each third year student is required to participate. The school also has a student to faculty ration of 10:1 The law school also sends more students (percentage) to practice in the public sector than any other law school in the country.

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  • Randall

    Randall earned his JD from the University of Denver in 2013. He received his BA in Communications and Social Science from the University of Washington in 2010. Randall took the LSAT twice, and managed to improve his score by 14 points the second time around. He paid the price of learning to score high on the LSAT and hopes to help other potential law students avoid similar pain.