Public Interest Center

Public Interest

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law is a leader in preparing students for public interest careers and pro bono work and in promoting the advancement of social justice. The Public Interest Center provides strategic leadership of key public interest activities on campus and promotes a strong public interest culture – one that encourages all students to develop a public service ethic. Among the Center’s features are financial support for students doing public interest work during and after law school; a robust menu of course offerings, including a Law and Social Policy concentration; career programming and counseling; a wide range of pro bono and public service opportunities; and passionate student organization participation and leadership.

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Curricular Offerings
Co-Curricular Opportunities
Career Assistance

Curricular Offerings

Bluhm Legal Clinic

Housing more than 20 clinics within 14 centers, the Bluhm Legal Clinic is widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive and effective clinical programs in the country. The clinic serves a wide range of clients, including teenagers tangled in an unjust juvenile legal system, prisoners who were wrongfully convicted, and entrepreneurs in need of affordable legal advice. As students gain unparalleled real-world experience, they also can dramatically improve the lives of those they serve.

Concentration in Law and Social Policy

The Concentration in Law and Social Policy gives students the opportunity to explore law through the lens of the social sciences, assessing the power that law has in consciously shaping society. This concentration offers two tracks — the policy analysis track and the public interest track. Students within the concentration work closely with a faculty member to complete a substantial research and writing project.

Center for Externships

The Center for Externships offers a practicum program that integrates theoretical coursework taught by faculty members with an expertise in a particular field of law with hands-on learning provided by fieldwork. The Law School’s location in Chicago offers students opportunities in federal and state judicial chambers; state, local and federal agencies, and a wide range of nonprofit organizations.

Intensive Semester Practicum

Students may work full time for an entire semester with attorneys at a government or nonprofit agency anywhere in the United States in an Intensive Semester Practicum. In addition, they participate in person or remotely in an accompanying course with a supervising faculty member, using a syllabus designed for their individual placement. Students gain practice in a range of lawyering skills including drafting litigation documents, policy memos, and legislation; appearing in court; negotiating agreements; and working directly with clients.

Co-Curricular Opportunities

Journals

Students at Northwestern Law publish six journals covering a wide range of subjects. The journals publish the works of the leading researchers in the United States and throughout the world. Public interest-focused journals include the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, the Journal of Human Rights, and the Journal of Law and Social Policy

Student Organizations

Student organizations, including the Public Interest Law Group, the Student Funded Public Interest Fellowships Program, and the Student Effort to Rejuvenate Volunteering, sponsor events and programs throughout the year. Through these groups, along with more than a dozen others, students participate in an active and civically engaged Law School community.

Public Service Program

The Public Service Program assists students in finding meaningful volunteer opportunities in diverse communities throughout the city of Chicago through a database and key partnerships with nonprofit agencies. Additional opportunities include a day of service during Orientation Week, Martin Luther King Jr. Service Projects, and alternative Spring Break service trips. 

Career Assistance

Post-Graduate Funding — Jay A. Pritzker Fellowships

The Law School recognizes that although the need for public interest lawyers is strong, many organizations lack the funding to offer entry-level opportunities. The Jay A. Pritzker Fellowships launch the public interest careers of dedicated graduates by providing a $50,000 salary and health care benefits to work for one year as a lawyer at a domestic nonprofit or government agency of the graduate’s choice. After a year as a Pritzker Fellow, recipients gain the experience needed to be hired for competitive public interest positions. Last year, ten graduates were selected for the fellowship and are working assisting communities across the country. 

Associate Director of Public Interest

The Associate Director of Public Interest provides individual career counseling, develops programming for students and alumni, and administers the public interest fellowship programs. This recently created position supports the public interest community at the Law School.

Career Strategy Center

The Career Strategy Center sponsors many programs and speakers on public interest employment. Every February, Northwestern Law also hosts the Midwest Public Interest Law Career Conference, where more than 50 employers come to interview and meet with law students. 

Loan Repayment Assistance Program

The Law School has a robust LRAP that dovetails with provisions of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (CCRAA). The CCRAA allows graduates to use Income-Based Repayment to lower their monthly payments on federal student loans. Northwestern Law’s LRAP aligns with this provision in CCRAA by supporting graduates by paying their loans for up to ten years. Many Northwestern Law graduates who remain in public service for ten years do not use any of their own funds for federal educational debt repayment.

Summer Funding

The Law School recently announced a new initiative to provide guaranteed summer funding, in the amount of $8,000, to students who work full-time in public interest jobs during their summers. Thanks to the generosity of alumni, the school also offers multiple named fellowships for students dedicated to public interest work.  

Global Public Interest Fellowship

This program funds up to six JD students per year to work abroad during the summer for an approved governmental or nongovernmental organization active on legal issues. Global Public Interest Fellows receive a $9,500 summer fellowship—the same $8,000 fellowship amount our summer public interest fellows receive plus a $1,500 international travel stipend. View a list of approved employers