The University of Minnesota Law School offers numerous public interest academic, volunteer, and career opportunities through a wide variety of courses, clinics, centers, research institutes, student organizations, Robina Public Interest Scholars Program, and Saeks Public Interest Residency Program.
Robina Public Interest Scholars Program
This program creates a seamless path from admission to full-time employment for students interested in public service careers. One of the only integrated programs of its kind in the country, it builds on the Law School’s long history of public service in providing transformative opportunities for interested students, while helping badly stretched legal services providers better serve their clients and communities. Supported by major funding from the Robina Foundation. More about the Robina Public Interest Scholars Program
Saeks Public Interest Residency Program
The Saeks Public Interest Residency Program is a new program that connects leading public interest and government organizations with high-achieving 3L students. Students work full-time during their third year of law school for a nonprofit or government agency and have a guaranteed, full-time, paid legal position with the same organization the year following graduation. More about the Saeks Public Interest Residency Program.
Law School Public Service Program (LSPSP) 50-Hour Challenge
In keeping with its mission of service, the University of Minnesota Law School challenges all JD students to complete at least 50 hours of law-related public service before graduation. In partnership with the Minnesota Justice Foundation (MJF), students are matched with non-profit and government agencies in Minnesota and nationwide, giving them the opportunity to serve clients while gaining valuable skills under attorney supervision. Graduates who meet or exceed the 50-hour challenge are honored at a special pre-Commencement ceremony, and receive a notation on their official Law School transcript.
Students can also pursue cutting-edge concentrations in areas such as criminal justice, environment, family, health, human rights, immigration law, international law, and labor law. Concentrations combine the expertise of our faculty and partnerships with other University of Minnesota programs. Electing a concentration can enhance public interest career opportunities through interdisciplinary and specialized courses, research and writing projects with faculty, mentorship opportunities with professors and other experts, networking with engaged alumni, and a notation on degree.
The Law School offers one of the nation’s largest and most distinguished programs of clinical education.
Institutes & Journals
Several research institutes are committed to public interest work and make important contributions to legal scholarship and public policy research, including the Center for New Americans, Energy Transition Lab, Human Rights Center, Institute on Crime and Public Policy, Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, and Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice.
Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, a student-edited journal, examines the social impact of law on disadvantaged people.
The Human Rights Center works at the nexus of scholarship and practice to protect and promote human rights at the local, national and international level. One of the first of its kind, the Center was founded by Professor David Weissbrodt in 1988 and enjoys an international reputation for rigorous research, a dedicated teaching mission, and crucial support to civil society and human-rights institutions locally, nationally and globally. The Center serves as a hub for the Law School’s wide-ranging human rights activities and supports interested students with programming on campus, school-year field placements and summer fellowships, opportunities for applied research, participation in national conferences and competitions, and academic and professional advising.
Remote Semester Program
Students have the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the legal profession and in public service while earning credits toward their law degree. Working for a government or nonprofit organization nationally or internationally during their 3L year for one semester, they earn 10 credits for work performed. Students will also earn an additional two credits by enrolling in the Independent Research & Writing Paper. For further information, contact Amanda Furst, director of Public Interest Programs.
Summer Internships & Post-Graduate Fellowships
The Robina Foundation provides funding for numerous summer and post-graduate fellowships in public interest work. Fellowship and clerkship opportunities are also available through the Minnesota Justice Foundation, Equal Justice America, Equal Justice Works, Peggy Browning Fund, and many others. Clerkships with district, tribal, and federal courts are also available both locally and nationally.
The Human Rights Center’s Fellowship Program also offers selected fellows the opportunity to spend the summer working in the field of human rights and international law, with UN bodies, U.S. or foreign courts and governmental agencies, national, foreign, or international NGOs, applied research projects with academic institutions, and with client-based organizations aimed at strategic impact for systemic change.
The Law School’s Career Center provides additional support for summer and school-year field placements and work study opportunities in the public interest field.
The Minnesota Justice Foundation’s student chapter helps support careers in public interest law, sponsors a speaker series, and offers opportunities for socializing and networking with other public interest students and alumni. Law students have the opportunity to serve as volunteer law clerks in a variety of government, nonprofit, outreach clinic, and firm pro bono settings through MJF. Numerous other Law School organizations provide students with public interest opportunities for academic study, community service, and pro bono work.
Career Development Support
The Law School also offers a dedicated Director of Public Interest Programs and Public Sector Coordinator, who assist students and alumni in public service career paths and judicial clerkships, direct programming, recruit employers, and manage summer and post-graduate funding programs. The Career Center also offers targeted resources, connections, and support for public interest legal work, including summer opportunities, pro bono work, school-year experiences, and post graduate public interest careers.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
Our alumni in public interest use a variety of loan repayment & assistance programs, including federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness, state and employer loan repayment assistance programs, and income-based repayment programs. The Law School’s loan repayment assistance program, LRAP Minnesota, provides funding for alumni in public interest work.