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Public Interest Law Certificate

Earning a certificate in Public Interest Law in addition to your JD degree gives you extensive preparation for a career in a wide range of organizations, including legal aid providers, public defenders, social justice agencies, nonprofits and foundations, government agencies, international human rights entities, public interest law firms and firms performing pro bono services. It signals to future employers that you have made a significant commitment to acquire substantive knowledge, practical skills and familiarity with the landscape of nonprofit and government law to prepare you for a successful career.

You may earn multiple certificates offered by USC Gould. Some courses count toward more than one certificate.

Certificate Requirements

To earn the certificate, you must take at least 20 units of mandatory, foundational, elective, skills and clinical or practicum courses as outlined below. In addition, you must complete an upper-division writing requirement and 50 hours of pro bono work.

Mandatory Courses

  • Administrative Law
  • Ethical Issues for Nonprofit, Government and Criminal Lawyers (must be taken in the first or second year)

Foundational Course (choose at least one)

  • Civil Rights
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Employment Discrimination
  • Immigration Law
  • International Human Rights Law
  • Poverty Law

Electives (at least 6 units required) (courses taken to meet the foundational requirement do not also count toward the elective requirement)

  • Advanced Topics in Constitutional Law
  • Advanced Topics in Employment Discrimination
  • Bioethics and the Law
  • Children's Legal Issues
  • Children, Sexuality and the Law
  • Civil and Political Rights and Liberties
  • Civil Rights
  • Constitutional Innovation
  • Constitutional Theory Seminar
  • Counterterrorism, Privacy and Civil Liberties
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Cross-Cultural Dispute Resolution
  • Employment Discrimination Law
  • Employment Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Family Law
  • Federal Courts
  • Federal Criminal Law
  • First Amendment
  • First Amendment: Law and Religion
  • Foreign Relations and National Security Law
  • Global Health Law and Human Rights
  • Health Care Regulation
  • Health Law and Policy
  • Identity Categories
  • Immigration Law
  • International Criminal Law
  • International Human Rights
  • Labor Law
  • Law and Society
  • Law, Mental Health and Ethics
  • Local Government Law
  • Mental Health Law
  • National Security Law
  • Poverty Law
  • Public Health Law
  • Public International Law
  • Race and Gender in the Law
  • Refugee and Forced Migration Law
  • Sex, Gender and the Law
  • Sexual Orientation and the Law
  • Stereotypes, Prejudice and the Rule of Law
  • Suing the Government
  • Topics in Criminal Law and Criminology
  • Treating Difference Equally
  • U.S. Foreign Policy and International Law
  • Wage Theft

Skills Courses (minimum 2 units required)

  • Advanced Legal Writing: Appellate Advocacy
  • Advanced Legal Writing: Partnership with Public Counsel
  • Advanced Legal Writing for Pretrial Practice
  • Child Interviewing Seminar
  • Deposition Strategies
  • Family Law Mediation
  • Negotiation and Mediation Advocacy
  • Pretrial Advocacy
  • Trial Advocacy

Clinical or Practicum Courses (minimum one semester required)

  • Immigration Clinic
  • International Human Rights Clinic
  • Mediation Clinic
  • Post-Conviction Justice Project
  • Access to Justice Practicum
  • Legislative Policy Practicum
  • Medical-Legal Partnership Seminar and Practicum
  • Externship with a qualifying organization (including international human rights or war crimes tribunal) if clinics/practicums are full

Not all courses are offered every year.

You may petition for approval to count elective courses not on the above list that are offered by the law school or another USC school.

Public Interest Law Certificate students may desire to pursue coursework in subjects not currently in our regular curriculum. In this event, the certificate's Advisory Committee will assist the academic dean in determining whether demand is sufficient to warrant engaging an adjunct or visiting professor to offer such a course on a one-time or more frequent basis.

Upper Division Writing Requirement

You must meet the upper-division writing requirement with a paper or other substantial project written for a clinic/practicum or a foundational or elective course. Papers written for other courses may meet this requirement via petition to and approval by the Public Interest Law Certificate Advisory Committee.

Pro Bono Requirement

You must complete at least 50 hours of pro bono service during your time at USC Gould.

Clare Pastore, Professor of the Practice of Law

L.A. is one of the best public interest communities in the country. We have some of the nation's most important problems and a large, diverse, passionate, dedicated group of people working on them. Whether it's civil rights, poverty, school reform, immigrant justice, wage theft, or a myriad of other issues, we have organizations and resources and great advocates working here.

Clare Pastore
Professor of the Practice of Law

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