Public Service and Public Interest Law
Chicago is committed to training lawyers and scholars who are dedicated to the public good as well as to professional excellence. The institutional support that the Law School offers for students and graduates seeking public interest work is multifaceted and includes:
Individual Public Service Counseling and Resource Matching
The counselors of the Office of Career Services -- including a dedicated public interest law advisor -- offer critical assistance to students and alumni pursuing work in the public and nonprofit sectors, including government service, post-graduate fellowships, and international placements. OCS also maintains extensive public service career resources and publications, and a wealth of online material on Chalk. OCS counselors meet with students, review resumes and cover letters, develop career plans and job search strategies, counsel on public service resources and alternatives, and help guide career-related decision making.
Public Service/Public Interest Law Job Opportunities
Over the years, Chicago Law graduates and students have served in post-graduate and summer positions at all levels of federal state and local government, international NGOs and human rights agencies, and domestic think tanks, poverty law agencies, and public interest law nonprofit organizations around the nation. OCS provides password protected information and public service job postings, along with other job opportunities, online through Symplicity. OCS also sends relevant job postings to the Public Service ListServ and in the weekly e-mail OCS Bulletin. Through these resources, students are notified of public service recruitment programs throughout the year, including placements with international human rights organizations or with government programs. The Law School also provides free of charge to its students, access to PSJD, a searchable database of thousands of public interest organizations, jobs and internships, fellowships, and funding opportunities. To access the PSJD listings the user must create a user name and password on the first visit.
Guaranteed Summer Public Interest Funding
The Law School is committed to supporting a range of summer public interest employment opportunities and provides a guaranteed summer funding award of $5,000 to any Chicago law student who chooses to work in a public interest law position during the summer. Students are eligible for this stipend during the summer after their first year, or the summer after their second year, or both. Eligible summer public interest positions include not only work for non-profit legal aid and advocacy organizations and policy groups, but also federal, state and local governmental legal positions, and international human rights organizations and other law-based NGOs.
First-year and second-year students must work in eligible nonprofit or government law positions for at least eight weeks of their summers. Participants in this program may also earn up to $5,000 per summer from other external (non-Law School) funding sources during the course of their summers.
Networking Contacts and Opportunities
Students with a CNetID can login to Chalk, choose the Office of Career Services page, and select the Organization Materials link. This page contains many useful job search resources designed to connect current students with one another and with alumni. These resources include the Who Worked Where list (a list of students' summer employment), the Public Interest Alumni Network (a group of alumni willing to discuss public service career options with current students), and the University's Alumni Careers Network database of over 15,000 alumni from across all areas of the University. The Law School also provides funding assistance to students who attend the national Equal Justice Conference and Career Fair, and sponsors and participates in the Midwest Public interest Law Career Conference, along with many public service job fairs and employer receptions throughout the year.
The Law School, a pioneer in clinical legal education, is home to an array of highly-regarded transactional and litigation-based legal clinics that ensure the growth of community service and that ensure practical education for students of the Law School. These clinical programs are located in the Law School's Arthur O. Kane Center for Clinical Legal Education, and together, they offer Chicago second and third year students opportunities to learn litigation, legislative advocacy and transactional skills through classroom instruction, simulation and representation of clients under the close supervision of the clinical teachers.
Pro Bono Service Initiative
Pro bono public service is an integral part of a lawyer's professional obligation and an essential ingredient in a legal career. Chicago is proud to offer its students opportunities to develop their legal skills and gain practical experience by participating in the University of Chicago Law School's Pro Bono Service Initiative, through which Chicago law students pledge to volunteer a minimum of 50 hours of law-related service during their time at the Law School. Students who fulfill the pledge will be formally recognized at graduation.
Speakers, Programs, and Panels
Through Faculty, Student Organizations, the Offices of Career Services, and the Dean of Students, the Law School sponsors a variety of public interest law programs throughout the year. These include skills programming that focuses on developing the skills necessary for successful career development; informational programming featuring speakers sharing their own career stories, challenges, and successes; and substantive law programming that highlights speeches, lectures, workshops and panel presentations on various topic relevant to a public interest law practice. These and other Law School events are an important part of the Chicago community.
- The University of Chicago Law School Postgraduate Public Interest Law Fellowships are awarded to a limited number of competitively chosen graduating students who develop public interest fellowship projects with public sector host organizations. Thanks to the generosity of alumni funders, each Fellow works full-time for one year following graduation at an eligible public service host organization on public interest legal issues such as welfare rights, affordable housing, domestic violence, immigration, workers rights, special education, environmental protection and juvenile justice. Each fellowship includes financial support for the fellowship year. Fellows provide periodic progress reports, including a final report at the end of the fellowship year. Applications for the Fellowship will be made available during the winter quarter of each academic year. Host organizations that are interested in sponsoring a University of Chicago Law School Postgraduate Fellow are encouraged to contact Susan Curry for more information. Click here to view a list of past and current Fellows.
- The Public Service Initiative (PSI) Fellowships provide one year of financial support to a limited number of graduating students who engage in full-time legal work at qualifying public service organizations, such as nonprofit offices and governmental agencies. Eligible applicants must sit for a July bar examination and participants will begin service at their hosts no later than the autumn following graduation. The Office of Career Services will make application information available in the spring quarter.
- The University of Chicago Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) is intended to alleviate the debt burden of our graduates who work in public interest. The most inclusive program of its kind, our LRAP includes a straightforward application and a generous $80,000 salary cap. In addition, all graduates who serve as judicial clerks are eligible for the program. The LRAP works in concert with current federal debt relief programs to offer the opportunity for any graduate staying in public interest for ten years to attend law school for free. Details about the program are available here, together with explanations of some of the newest parts of the program.