Public Interest Law Career Guide

By Paul Hellyer
Updated July 2019


Alan K. Chen & Scott L. Cummings, Public Interest Lawyering: A Contemporary Perspective (2013).
Offers an in-depth analysis of public interest lawyering, covering NGOs, government agencies, and private firms. Addresses issues including ethics, the role of legal education, financing, and the globalization of public interest practice.
Publisher's Description 
KF299 .P8 C48 2013 (STACKS)

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

Jefferson Decker, The Other Rights Revolution: Conservative Lawyers and the Remaking of American Government (2016).
Explains how conservative lawyers have used public interest law firms to advance conservative causes.
Full text on Oxford Scholarship Online
KF299 .P8 D43 2016 (STACKS)

Fred D. Gray, Bus Ride to Justice: The Life and Works of Fred D. Gray (Rev. Ed. 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)

Earl Johnson, Jr., To Establish Justice for All: The Past and Future of Civil Legal Aid in the United States (2014).
This three-volume set offers a detailed history of civil legal aid and analysis of its future prospects.
KF336 .J64 2014 (STACKS)

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

Kenneth A. Manaster, Alan W. Scheflin & Viva I. Harris, Pro Bono Practice & Legal Ethics (2016).
Explores the challenges and rewards of pro bono work, with an emphasis on legal ethics.
Publisher's Description
KF299 .P8 M28 2016 (STACKS)

Alfredo Mirande, Rascuache Lawyer: Toward a Theory of Ordinary Litigation (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)

Wayne Moore, Delivering Legal Services to Low-Income People (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)

Albert Ruben, The People's Lawyer: The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Fight for Social Justice, From Civil Rights to Guantanamo (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)

Daniel Sheehan, The People's Advocate: The Life and Legal History of America's Most Fearless Public Interest Lawyer (2013).
An autobiography from an eminent cause lawyer who was involved in several historic cases including litigation over the Watergate and Iran/Contra scandals.
Publisher's Description 
KF373 .S485 A3 2013 (STACKS)



Kara Blomquist, Beyond the Pay Gap: 5 Tips for Creating a Financially Viable Future in Public Interest Law, Student Lawyer, Nov.-Dec. 2018, at 17.
Practical advice on the pay gap between nonprofit organizations and large law firms.

Syeda Davidson, Don't Tell Me I Had to Start Somewhere, TYL, Fall 2014, at 10.
A young lawyer who worked for legal aid challenges the perception that legal aid jobs are undesirable. 

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.

Jenna Greene, Defending Legal Services, American Lawyer, July 2017, at 28.
In an interview, the President of Legal Services Corp. talks about the survival of government-funded legal services under the Trump administration.

Gabrielle Orum Hernandez, A High-Tech Helping Hand, American Lawyer, June 2017, at L4.
"Bar associations across the country are seeking technology platforms to help mobilize attorneys and create a more resilient legal assistance community."

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.

Symposium, Rebellious Lawyering at 25, 23 Clinical L. Rev. 471 (2017).
Nine articles on the culture and practice of progressive public interest law.

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.

Ashley Zink et al, Why I Do Public Interest Work, Student Lawyer, Jan.-Feb. 2019, at 14.
A collection of nine statements from law students explaining why they chose a public interest career path.


Dialogue: The Magazine of the ABA Division for Legal Services
Chicago: ABA Division for Legal Services
On the Web at: 

Legal Services Now
Six issues per year.
Chicago: ABA Division for Legal Services
On the Web at:


ABA Division for Legal Services
321 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610
tel: (800) 285-2221
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)
1730 M St. N.W., Ste. 800
Washington, D.C. 20036
tel: (202) 466-3686
“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
1901 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Ste. 500
Washington, D.C. 20006
tel: (202) 452-0620
fax: (202) 872-1031
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
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