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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 (minimum 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 Lawr
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
Health Law and Policy
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 writing project written for one of the clinics/practicums or one of the foundational or elective courses. Papers written for courses outside of those listed may be approved as meeting this requirement by petition to 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.

Other Offerings

In conjunction with student organizations, the Public Interest Law area of focus will offer a series of speakers and event throughout the year focusing on public interest law, nonprofit and government-sector jobs, postgraduate fellowships and building community.

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