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Public interest law is a large field that includes many different areas of practice, such as criminal law, environmental law, family law, immigration law, and public international law. Lawyers practicing in particular fields within public interest law must be trained not only in the substantive law relevant to the field, but in the lawyering skills that are most needed for the specific public interest practice.

Public Interest Law Resources

Public Interest Law Faculty

Public Interest Law Path View

  • Core Course

    Evidence

    3 Credit (Required)

    Surveys the law of evidence applied in the federal trial courts with some comparison with state courts of superior jurisdiction. Case law and code sources are considered with special emphasis placed on the Federal Rules of Evidence. Among the topics treated are the mechanics of presenting and objecting to evidence, relevance, competency and privilege, character evidence, impeachment, hearsay and the major exceptions thereto, expert testimony and scientific evidence, judicial notice, and the burdens of proof and presumptions.

  • Core Course

    Lawyering Process

    6, 4, or 3 Credit (Clinic)

    Other Stage One Options:

    Public Interest Law Seminar / Clinic

    This one-semester course serves as an introduction to civil litigation. Students attend a 2-hour weekly class and 16 hours per week (8 hours or 5 hours, respectively, for the 4- and 3-credit version open to part-time students only), working on civil cases through the Clinical Law Office or other legal services offices, such as Greater-Boston Legal Services. Students represent clients under Rule 3:03 of the Supreme Judicial Court, the student practice rule, and assume responsibility for all phases of each case they handle. Students meets on a weekly basis with their assigned supervisor to discuss progress and strategy on the student's cases, and are responsible for handling cases until the end of the examination period. The major objective of the course is to develop a conceptual framework within which students can understand and evaluate their own experience in practice, both during the course and in future practice. The skills studied include client interviewing, case planning, investigation/discovery, client counseling, negotiation, argument, and the presentation of evidence. In addition to providing the opportunity to develop skills, the course examines institutional and ethical problems that arise in the student's practice. Written work includes short papers and an examination. Prerequisites/corequisites include Evidence or Trial Practice. This course satisfies the Experiential Education/Professional Skills Requirement.

  • Core Course

    Public Interest Law Seminar / Clinic

    3, 4, or 5 Credit (Clinic)

    Other Stage One Options:

    Lawyering Process

    This one-semester package includes both a clinical course and seminar. Students will spend 5 (1-credit), 10 (2-credit), or 15 (3-credit) hours per week in their fieldwork, depending on the number of credits for the clinical component portion. In addition, all students will attend a weekly, 2-hour seminar (2 credits). The total package will therefore be offered for 3, 4, or 5 credits, with the 3-credit package offered only to Evening and Special Part-Time Program students. For the clinical component, the core placements will include the New England Law Clinical Law Office and off-site placements, such as Greater-Boston Legal Services, where students will handle civil cases. Students will be practicing under Rule 3:03 of the Supreme Judicial Court, typically representing indigent clients. An explicit goal of this course is to provide our students with direct experience providing "legal services for the benefit of persons of limited means." See MASS. R PROF. CONDUCT R. 6.1. Placements in governmental agencies will not be the focus of this clinic, since the placements in other clinical courses are so heavily weighted toward the government sector (e.g. Government Lawyer, Tax Clinic, Administrative Law Clinic, Criminal Procedure II Clinic, Federal Courts Clinic). The seminar portion of the course will focus on public interest law and the public interest lawyer. Classes, or units of classes, will include issues such as: introduction to substantive areas of public interest law (e.g., family law, housing law, government benefits); ethics (e.g. issues affecting public interest lawyers, regulation of the profession and delivery of legal services); clients (unmet legal needs, and issues of poverty, race and gender); the courts (dispensing justice to persons of limited means); and legal education (the role of law schools in preparing lawyers for the practice). Issues from the students' fieldwork will be incorporated into the classes, to strengthen the connections between classroom and fieldwork, as well as theory and practice.

    Prerequisites/Corequisites: Evidence or Trial Practice.

    This course satisfies the Experiential Education/Professional Skills Requirement.

  • Pathway

    Environmental Law Pathway / Public Interest

    Public Interest Law can also be pursued through specific pathways, including Environmental Law.

  • Pathway

    Family Law Pathway / Public Interest

    Public Interest Law can also be pursued through specific pathways, including Family Law.

  • Pathway

    Criminal Law Pathway / Public Interest

    Public Interest Law can also be pursued through specific pathways, including Criminal Law.

  • Pathway

    Immigration Law Pathway / Public Interest

    Public Interest Law can also be pursued through specific pathways, including Immigration Law.

  • Pathway

    International Law Pathway / Public Interest

    Public Interest Law can also be pursued through specific pathways, including International Law.

  • Recommended Course

    Administrative Law

    3 Credit (Elective)

    This course is designed for students interested in regulatory law and those who seek additional coverage of pertinent constitutional law topics. Coverage includes the sources and nature of agency authority, agency rule making and adjudication, and judicial review of agency action. Constitutional issues addressed include the interplay of power among the three federal branches, procedural due process, and justiciability issues such as standing, ripeness, and mootness. Special emphasis is placed on the federal Administrative Procedure Act; state analogs may be studied as well. Attention also may be given to the internal functioning of typical administrative bodies and to the relationship between regulators and the regulated community.

  • Recommended Course

    Family Law

    3 Credit (Elective)

    Surveys many legal problems of the family. Students taking this course will learn about the effect of the constitution on reproductive activity and family formation and structure. They also will learn about procedures for family dissolution, custody, and support, regardless of whether there has been a marriage or not. In addition, students will learn about the various ways in which members of families can use contracts to create their own relations and the settings in which the state does not permit self-determination. Finally, the course explores the lawyer's role in family counseling and litigation. One or more written exercises are sometimes required during the course, in addition to a final examination.

  • Recommended Course

    Government Lawyer Clinic

    4 Credit (Clinic)

    This clinical course gives students an opportunity to participate in and to analyze the work of a lawyer in a government setting. Participants will spend 12 hours per week working in the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office under the supervision of assistant attorneys general or another government agency. Students may assist with various aspects of litigation, such as research, investigation, pleadings, discovery, motions, trials, and appeals. Students must attend a weekly, two-hour class that will explore the skills required in representing the government as well as such policy issues as defining the "public interest" and the conflicts between representing the public and defending the government. NOTE: ELIGIBILITY FOR THIS COURSE IS DEPENDENT ON SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF A BACKGROUND CHECK. CONTACT PROFESSOR CARRIKER IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS (727-2200 Ext. 2118). Prerequisites/corequisites include Evidence or Trial Practice. This course satisfies the Experiential Education/Professional Skills Requirement.

  • Other Course

    Nonprofit Organizations

    3 Credit (Elective)

    This course will examine nonprofit organizations and the sector in which they operate. The course will focus on the legal framework governing the operation of the nonprofit organizations, including issues of choice of form, governing bodies, and regulation of solicitations. The course also will survey the basic federal income and state property tax issues relevant to operation of the nonprofit organization. These issues include qualification for tax exemption, filing requirements, engaging in commercial activities, and the distinction between public charities and private foundations.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Other Course

    State Constitutional Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    This course explores many aspects of state constitutional law, including the phenomenon of the "new judicial federalism" of state courts interpreting their state constitutions to provide individuals greater protection than may be found under the US Constitution. The "new judicial federalism" has spurred renewed interest in the work of state courts, both in the area of individual rights protection and in implementation of constitutional commands relating to the structure of government. This course will be taught as a colloquium: after an initial introduction to state constitutional law, teaching will be undertaken by students. Each student will be responsible, with a classmate, for leading discussion on a topic related to information privacy. In addition, each team of students must submit a 15-page paper that relates to their selected topic.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Pathway

    Any Course from the Clinics and Externships Menu

    Choose from New England Law's selection of Clinics and Externships to further your study of Public Interest Law.

  • Recommended Course

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    2 Credit (Professional Skills)

    This course focuses on alternative methods of dispute resolution, including negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. In-class simulations of fact patterns are used as a means of illustrating certain resolution methods. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirements.

  • Recommended Course

    Mediation

    3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    Students are introduced to the principles of conflict resolution through the mediation process and through evolving mediation hybrids, including learning about the legal, ethical, sociological, and procedural aspects of mediation through a series of simulated exercises. Students participate directly in simulations drawn from many areas involving conflict, such as family law, trusts and estates, land use and real estate, business, sports law, construction, entertainment, and employment. During the second half of the course, the focus is on the role of lawyers in the mediation process and the skills needed to be an effective and appropriate advocate in resolving disputes for clients. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirements.

  • Recommended Course

    Negotiation

    3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    Explores the theory and the art of resolving conflict through negotiation. Various styles are presented for comparison and analysis. Students are urged to evaluate their own intuitive style and to experience others. Practical experience is achieved through one-on-one and group negotiations exercises. The theory of conflict, strategic choice, ethical issues, and the negotiator's dilemma are presented in a variety of substantive contexts. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirement.

  • Recommended Course

    Trial Practice

    2 or 3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    This skills course is designed to prepare students for the trial phase of litigation. Although it presumes prior knowledge of the substantive areas of law covered during the first two years of law school, especially evidence, the course itself concentrates on trial procedure and the development of jury trial advocacy skills. Students conduct complete mock trials in which they participate as parties, witnesses, and counsel. Problems faced by students acting as counsel include jury selection, opening statements, closing arguments, examination of witnesses-including opinion testimony, offers of exhibits, objections to evidence, and impeachment of witnesses. Mock trial exercises are critiqued by the instructor and class members. Consideration also is given to client interviews, investigation, discovery, pleadings, pretrial motions, and the preservation of rights to appeal. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirement.

  • Other Course

    Children and the Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    The theme of this seminar is the manner in which tensions related to the division of power and control play out between children and parents, children and the state, and parents and the state in a wide variety of contexts. Topics include, but are not limited to, the right of parents to make medical, educational, and other decisions about their children without state intervention; First Amendment rights of children; rights of young children in school; children's economic relationship within the family; child abuse and neglect; child custody; corporal punishment; and the nature and scope of constitutional rights and privileges in delinquency proceedings.

  • Other Course

    Consumer Protection

    2 Credit (Elective)

    This overview of the law of consumer retail transactions focuses on the tools available to attorneys representing consumers (and those defending companies) when consumer disputes arise. The course will cover common law causes of action, the statutory tools regularly utilized in litigation (with an emphasis on the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act), and the regulatory regimes put in place by the Federal Reserve, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other administrative agencies. We also will analyze the tactics involved in consumer protection litigation by reviewing real situations and examining the choices available to both the businesses and consumer advocates in such cases. Finally, we will discuss a variety of specific substantive areas of consumer protection, such as the subprime mortgage debacle and Internet privacy.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Other Course

    Domestic Violence

    2 Credit (Elective)

    The course addresses partner-violence issues in the legal system, including the consequences for children, focusing, initially, on those issues relating to civil orders of protection; prosecution and defense of criminal charges; and divorce, custody, and child support, along with the role of the Department of Children and Families. In the final third of the course, students choose other legal issues in partner-violence cases to present to the class. Presentations in earlier years have included such topics as immigration, cyberstalking, religious law, housing, and evidence issues that are significant in partner-violence cases. Students will be encouraged to consider how issues of race, class, ethnicity, and gender affect the analyses.

  • Other Course

    Employment Law

    2 or 3 Credit (Elective)

    This course deals with the employer/employee relationship when the employee is not represented by a labor union, but rather seeks protection under state or federal legislation. Among the topics are legal restraints on employer screening of employees, wage and hour legislation, occupational health and safety legislation, restrictions on employee discharge, employment discrimination, retirement, and other employee workplace rights and protections.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Other Course

    Housing Discrimination Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    This course takes a close look at federal and state fair-housing law by examining its statutory bases; constitutional challenges posed by the First Amendment; issues involving coverage, proof, and liability; and the various enforcement mechanisms and remedies available. The scope of the course is broad insofar as fair-housing law prohibits discrimination in private-sector and public-sector housing on the grounds of physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, receipt of public assistance, age, and familial status (families with children under 18), as well as race, color, national origin/ancestry, and religion. The course also considers current patterns of residential segregation and discrimination in housing and mortgage lending, the effectiveness of fair-housing law, and how fair-housing requirements interact with such developments as local and community opposition to affordable housing or to group homes for persons with a disability. The course is recommended both for students interested in civil rights and public interest law and for those intending to pursue careers in the real estate or mortgage lending industries. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirement.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Other Course

    Juvenile Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    Explores the primary methods by which the state defines and controls juvenile delinquency in our society. Through the study of case law, students are exposed to the history and philosophy of the juvenile justice system and to the concept of juvenile delinquency. In particular, focus is given to the unique juvenile court, its roles as a legal system and as a social welfare system, and a comparative analysis of juvenile law and process. Also explored are dependency, neglect, and diversion programs.

  • Other Course

    Mental Health Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    Explores the interrelations between law and mental disabilities. Topics include the insanity defense, use of psychiatric expert testimony, competence to stand trial, use of indeterminate sentencing for "dangerous" offenders and predicting "dangerousness" civil commitment, rights of mental patients, use of psychotropic medication, and psychiatrist/patient privilege.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Other Course

    Race and the Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    Focuses on selected topics dealing with the law, race, and racism.

    This course may be offered every other year.