William and Mary Law School

Public Interest Law Career Guide

By Paul Hellyer
Updated August 2013


Books & Narratives

A Force for Nature: The Story of the NRDC and the Fight to Save Our Planet, by John H. Adams, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2010.
This memoir by the founder of the National Resources Defense Council recounts some of the courtroom victories achieved by NRDC attorneys.
Publisher's Description
KF373.A33 A3 2010 (STACKS)

Lawyers at Work, by Clare Cosslett, New York, NY: Apress, 2012.
Includes interviews with lawyers specializing in civil rights and nonprofit associations.
Publisher's Description
K120 .C67 2012 (STACKS)

Bringing Justice to the People: The Story of the Freedom-Based Public Interest Law Movement, Lee Edwards, ed., Washington, D.C.: Heritage Books, 2004.
This book describes the efforts of conservative lawyers in the “freedom-based” public interest law movement, which aims to challenge liberal judicial activism.
KF390.5 .P78 B74 2004 (STACKS)

Bus Ride to Justice: The Life and Works of Fred D. Gray, Revised Edition, by Fred D. Gray, Montgomery, AL: NewSouth Books, 2013.
Autobiography of civil rights attorney Fred D. Gray, whose 60-year career included the representation of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Publisher's Description
KF373 .G685 A3 2013 (STACKS)

Justice at Guantanamo: One Woman's Odyssey and Her Crusade for Human Rights, by Kristine A. Huskey, Guildford, CT: Lyons Press, 2009.
The author describes her work representing suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo.
KF373 .H867 A3 2009 (STACKS)

Lawyering from the Heart, by Deborah Kenn, New York: Aspen, 2009.
Features interviews with 22 law school graduates who pursued careers as public interest lawyers.
Publisher's Description
KF299 .P8 K46 2009 (OCS)

Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer, by Kenneth W. Mack, Harvard U. Press, 2012.
Describes the work of African-American lawyers who fought against segregation.
Publisher's Description
KF372 .M33 2012 (STACKS)

The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer, by Michael Meltsner, Charlottesville, Va.: Univ. of Virginia Press, 2006.
An autobiography by Michael Meltsner (1937- ), an NAACP attorney involved in several high-profile civil rights cases.
Publisher's Description
KF373 .M456 A3 2006 (STACKS)

Rascuache Lawyer: Toward a Theory of Ordinary Litigation, by Alfredo Mirande, Tucson: U. of Arizona Press, 2011.
"Rascuache" is a Spanish word for "poor" or "wretched." The author describes his work representing rascuache clients and how he applies critical race theory to his day-to-day legal practice.
Publisher's Description
KF373 .M534 A3 2011 (STACKS)

Delivering Legal Services to Low-Income People, by Wayne Moore, 2011.
The author is an attorney who had a 30-year career with the AARP. He outlines efficient ways of representing low-income clients.
KF336 .M66 2011 (STACKS)

Beyond the Big Firm: Profiles of Lawyers Who Want Something More, by Alan B. Morrison & Diane T. Chin, New York: Aspen, 2007.
This book profiles a variety of lawyers who work outside big firms.  It includes sections on civil rights lawyers, environmental lawyers, government lawyers, and lawyers specializing in social change.
Publisher's Description
KF299 .P8M67 2007 (STACKS)

The People's Lawyer: The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Fight for Social Justice, From Civil Rights to Guantanamo, by Albert Ruben, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011.
A history of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a public interest law group that advocates for social justice.
Publisher's Description
KF4749 .R83 2011 (STACKS)

The Worlds Cause Lawyers Make: Structure and Agency in Legal Practice, by Austin Sarat, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005.
Features profiles of cause lawyers past and present from around the world.
Publisher's Description
K118 .P82 W67 2005 (STACKS)

Thorns & Roses: Lawyers Tell Their Pro Bono Stories, by Deborah A. Schmedemann, Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2010.
A dozen lawyers tell stories about their pro bono work on a wide range of issues.
Publisher's Description
KF336 .S36 2010 (STACKS)



Erin Binns, Who You Are and What You've Done Matter to Public Interest Employers, Student Lawyer, May 2010, at 5.
Provides advice on how to land a job in the public interest sector. 

Bettina E. Brownstein, Private Practice and Cause Lawyering: A Practical and Ethical Guide, 31 U. Ark. Little Rock L. Rev. 601 (2009).
Explains what cause lawyering is and offers practical advice for attorneys seeking to enter this field.   Discusses the ethical problems that arise when trying to balance the interests of the client with the interests of the cause.

Dawn Chase, Legal Aid Returns Millions of Dollars to Virginia's Economy, Virginia Lawyer, Oct. 2012, at 47.
Explains how Legal Aid benefits Virginia despite funding shortfalls.

Kristin Choo, 3 Go Out, 2 Return: Public Interest Gig Led to New Job, ABA Journal, Nov. 2010, at 29.
Describes the experiences of three young associates who left their jobs at a large law firm to pursue one-year public interest fellowships.

Carla J. DeVelder, Passion, Commitment and a Desire to Serve: Is Public Interest Law for You?, Student Lawyer, March 2012.
Provides an introduction to the public interest field, discusses salaries and offers tips on how to enter this job market.

James P. Guy II, Pro Bono: Better, Cheaper, Faster, VBA News Journal, Winter 2012, at 10.
Describes JusticeServer, a new pro bono case management system used by the Virginia Bar Association.

Martha Reilly, Helping Others Helps You: Pro Bono Work Can Lead to New Clients, Increased Efficiency and Great Satisfaction, Law Practice, July-Aug. 2012, at 38.
An attorney who specializes in representing nonprofit associations explains how pro bono work helps her to attract paying clients.

Deborah L. Rhode, Public Interest Law: the Movement at Midlife, 60 Stanford Law Review 2027 (2008).
Examines public interest organizations that have reached maturity—what the author calls "midlife."  The article surveys around fifty leaders of the nation's preeminent public interest legal organizations and discusses their priorities, structure, strategies, funding, and challenges. 

U.S. Department of Education, Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Explains the loan forgiveness option for federal direct loan borrowers who work in the public service sector.

David C. Yamada, Packaging Yourself for Public Interest Employment: Career Planning Guidance for Aspiring Public Interest Lawyers, Oct. 21, 2012.
"This is an updated version of a career counseling piece for law students who are interested in pursuing work in the public interest field. It covers topics such as course selection, clinics and internships, and overall career development." --From the abstract.


Clearinghouse Review
Library has v. 3, 1969 to present
Six issues per year.
Washington, D.C.: National Clearinghouse for Legal Services

Three issues per year.
Washington, D.C.: National Legal Aid and Defender Association
On the Web at: http://www.nlada.org/News/News_Pubs/Publications/Cornerstone_Issues 

Dialogue: The Magazine of the ABA Division for Legal Services
Chicago: ABA Division for Legal Services
On the Web at: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/dialogue_home.html 

Legal Services Now
Six issues per year.
Chicago: ABA Division for Legal Services
On the Web at: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/legal_services_now_home.html


ABA Division for Legal Services
321 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610
tel: (800) 285-2221
website: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_services.html 
The Division works to improve access for all to legal services. It offers periodicals, directories, and other information for lawyers. Within the Division, 11 committees and commissions focus on different aspects of legal services.

Equal Justice Works (formerly the National Association for Public Interest Law)
2120 L Street NW, Ste. 450
Washington, D.C. 20037
tel: (202) 466-3686
fax: (202) 429-9766
e-mail: mail@equaljusticeworks.org
website: http://www.equaljusticeworks.org/
“Equal Justice Works organizes, trains and supports public service-minded law students and is the national leader in creating summer and postgraduate public interest jobs.” Their website includes a searchable database of public interest law career opportunities.

National Legal Aid and Defender Association
1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, Ste. 900
Washington, D.C. 20036
tel: (202) 452-0620
fax: (202) 872-1031
e-mail: info@nlada.org
website: http://www.nlada.org/
NLADA is the largest and oldest organization for legal professionals who serve low-income clients. They provide support for their members, information for the public, and take part in legislative efforts.

PSJD: Your Pathway to Public Service Legal Careers
1220 19th St. NW, Ste. 401
Washington, D.C. 20036-2405
tel: (202) 296-0076
fax: (202) 835-1112
e-mail: psjd@nalp.org
website: http://www.psjd.org
PSJD offers a database of nonprofit organizations and job opportunities in public interest law. The database covers internships, postgraduate fellowships, and permanent positions. Students at William & Mary Law School may create a PSJD account for free.

Photo:  Associated Press