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Schools with Public Interest Law Programs: How to Choose

Public interest law programs offer students the knowledge and tools they need to fight for public or community interests. Most law schools around the country offer public interest law classes as part of their curriculum; however, several make public interest law a central part of their mission. Read on to find the right law school for you.

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Public interest lawyers deal with a variety of public issues from the welfare of children to protecting the environment. Studies in this field are typically incorporated into Juris Doctor (JD) programs, and some schools offer specific academic tracks in a public interest field.

Top 10 Schools with Law Programs

In 2016, U.S. News and World Report ranked the following law schools as having the top law programs in the country:

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition and fees (2015-2016)
Yale University New Haven, CT Private $58,050
Harvard University Cambridge, MA Private $58,242
Stanford University Stanford, CA Private $56,274
Columbia University New York, NY Private $62,700
University of Chicago Chicago, IL Private $56,916
New York University New York, NY Private $59,330
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Private $58,918
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA Public $48,679 in-state, $52,630 out-of-state
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI Public $53,112 in-state, $56,112 out-of-state
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA Public $54,000 in-state, $57,000 out-of-state

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Advanced Legal Research
  • Comparative Law
  • Energy and Environmental Law
  • Financial, Banking, and Securities Law
  • Health Law
  • International Business, Trade, and Tax Law
  • International Law
  • Law Degree
  • PreLaw Studies
  • Programs for Foreign Lawyers
  • Tax Law
  • US Law

School Selection criteria

The following items are noteworthy to consider when selecting a law school:

  • Students should review various law school websites to find out how important public interest law is to each school's core values.
  • It is also important to note how many graduates move on to work in the public interest area of the legal field.
  • Students may want to look for schools that offer internship and funded pro bono work opportunities in public interest law.
  • Students may want to look for schools that provide one-on-one faculty support for future lawyers.

Program Overview - Juris Doctor Programs with an Emphasis on Public Interest

Law schools around the country do not typically offer public interest law degree programs, but some do offer certificates in the area. A number of schools also give students the opportunity to focus their studies in the public interest law arena. A review of a school's curriculum will show its dedication to public interest law. Some schools offer post-graduate fellowships.

When choosing a JD program, aspiring public interest laws should look for highly-ranked schools that support students who are interested in the field and provide relevant coursework and practical training opportunities.

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