Male law student

Public Interest Law

Advancing Justice: The Power of Public Interest Law

If you are entering the legal profession to pursue a career path in public interest law, you will find support, guidance, and a welcoming environment at Western New England University School of Law.

A commitment to the public interest—pro bono publico—is embedded in the culture and curriculum at the Western New England University School of Law. Many faculty members are engaged in public interest advocacy and scholarship. Their range of interests include antidiscrimination law; feminist theory; civil liberties; gay, lesbian, and transgender studies; workplace rights; poverty law; critical race theory; environmental law; and health care policy. The School of Law’s commitment to students interested in pursuing a career in public interest law encompasses scholarships opportunities, classroom teaching, clinical courses, externships, and extracurricular activities.

The School of Law offers an array of courses to prepare you for a career in public interest lawyering and a range of outstanding clinical and externship opportunities, along with a strong mentoring program providing advice and support in course selection, clinical and externship options, and career paths. We also have regularly scheduled programs with faculty and attorneys who practice in various public interest arenas to discuss the ethical, theoretical, and practical dimensions of public interest legal work.

 

Public Interest Clinical And Externship Opportunities

In the context of our flexible curriculum, students can focus their academic instruction, clinical education, and externship opportunities in legal areas such as anti-discrimination law, civil rights, tenants’ rights, domestic violence, immigration, civil liberties, workplace rights, consumer protection, and poverty law. Students are encouraged to participate in and apply to various opportunities to gain practical skills while engaging in public interest work. Our clinic and externship opportunities are listed below.

Legal Aid Clinic -

Students in the Legal Aid Clinic conduct their fieldwork at Community Legal Aid (CLA), a private, non-profit organization that provides civil legal assistance to poor people and elders. The Legal Aid Clinic allows students to learn about the real practice of law, while giving them the opportunity to engage in community service by providing essential legal services to those in need. Students who are accepted to the clinic will be assigned to work in one of the following units. 

  • Housing 
  • Disability 
  • Employment 
  • Benefits  
  • Immigration
  • Family 
  • Veterans Project 
  • CORI/Re-Entry Project

Criminal Law Defense Practicum - Students in the Criminal Law Defense Practicum work as student defense attorneys at either the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) or with Bar Advocates within the Hampden & Hampshire County District Courts. By court rule, students in the Practicum are authorized to practice in any District Court case, which includes a mix of both misdemeanors and felonies. Typical of the offenses litigated by students in the District Court are possession and/or distribution of controlled substances, assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, violation of a restraining order, larceny, assault and battery on a police officer, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. During the course of the semester, a student attorney will appear in three different sessions of the District Court: the arraignment session (in which students represent indigent defendants in bail hearings), the motion session (in which students prepare and litigate motions to suppress and motions to dismiss) and, ultimately, the trial session (in which students prepare and litigate jury and jury-waived trials.) This clinic allows students to gain substantial exposure over the course of the semester to the entire process of litigating a criminal case. 

Global Justice Clinic - Participating students work collaboratively with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, grass-roots organizations, solidarity networks, attorneys, stakeholders, and other institutions engaging in human rights work, to advance political, economic, social and cultural human rights across borders.

Law Practice Externships - The Law Practice Externship Program makes a semester-long experience in an approved nonprofit organization or governmental agency available to selected students. Students engage in a variety of lawyering tasks under the supervision of a practicing attorney and participate in a biweekly seminar that focuses on professionalism, ethics, and public interest lawyering.

Please view the Experiential Learning webpage, which provides an overview of all clinic and externship opportunities available to law students at Western New England University School of Law.

Public Interest Scholars Program

Each year, a small group of applicants will be selected to participate in the Public Interest Scholars program and awarded a scholarship of up to $10,000. The program offers mentorship in the public interest space, as well as exclusive professional development opportunities. Scholars learn about public interest law via elective courses and speaker engagements at the Law School and put their knowledge into action through pro bono projects. Scholars will also receive a one-time summer stipend for an approved public interest internship. Applicants may apply for the Public Interest Scholars program via the WNE Law application available through LSAC.org. Scholars will be notified of their acceptance to the program and scholarship award by April 1.

Center for Social Justice

Since its launch in 2019, the Center for Social Justice has achieved great success in accomplishing its mission of advancing justice through research, education, advocacy, innovation, and public engagement. We strive to be a preeminent Center that understands and addresses the root causes of systemic social injustice and develops innovative, human-centered solutions for change. Through our pro-bono initiatives, we assist marginalized, underserved, BIPOC, low-income, women, LGBTQ+, and immigrant communities. The Center strengthens collaborative efforts between the Law School and the local region to work toward a more just, equitable, and inclusive society.

Pro Bono Initiatives

 

Contact Information

Melanie S. Lewis

Blake Law Center, Office of Career Services

413-782-1769
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