Public Interest Law Firms are often the first venue that comes to mind when thinking of a career in public interest law. These non-governmental firms are usually organized as non-profit 501(c)(3) corporations. They cover a wide range of interests but are united in utilizing litigation and the practice of law to advance the interest of their constituents, who are marginalized in some way. Thus, while these organizations may have an interest in public policy, or conduct some lobbying activities, or perform some social services, that is not their primary focus. There are thousands of such public interest firms across the nation. The list below provides a general (and incomplete) guide to explain some categories of these firms and to provide a list of some of the more prominent national and local public interest law firms. The Office of Public Service and the Career Planning Center will maintain copies of the current NLADADirectory of Legal Aid & Defender Offices and Resources.
NLADA is the nation's leading advocate for front-line attorneys and other equal justice professionals - those who make a difference in the lives of low-income clients and their families and communities. Representing legal aid and defender programs, as well as individual advocates, NLADA is proud to be the oldest and largest national, nonprofit membership association devoting 100 percent of its resources to serving the broad equal justice community.
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is a private, non-profit corporation established by Congress to seek to ensure equal access to justice under the law for all Americans by providing civil legal assistance to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it. LSC was created in 1974 and is headed by an 11-member Board of Directors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. LSC funds 138 legal aid programs with 700 offices around the nation to help poor Americans gain equal access to the judicial system.
Local programs are governed by their own Boards of Directors, which set priorities and determine the types of cases that will be handled by the program, subject to restrictions set by Congress. LSC-funded programs do not handle criminal cases, nor do they accept fee-generating cases that private attorneys are willing to accept on a contingency basis. In addition, in 1996 a series of new limitations were placed upon activities in which LSC-funded programs may engage on behalf of their clients, even with non-LSC funds. Among them are prohibitions on class actions, challenges to welfare reform, collection of attorneys' fees, rulemaking, lobbying, litigation on behalf of prisoners, representation in drug-related public housing evictions, and representation of certain categories of aliens. The Corporation has implemented and rigorously enforced these restrictions.
Click here for a dynamically linked Map of all LSC Funded Programs.
Alliance for Justice is a national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's and consumer advocacy organizations. Since its inception in 1979, the Alliance has worked to advance the cause of justice for all Americans, strengthen the public interest community's ability to influence public policy, and foster the next generation of advocates.
Click here for a dynamic list of national public interest firms that are members of the Alliance for Justice.
Equal Justice Works organizes, trains and supports public service-minded law students and is the national leader in creating summer and postgraduate public interest jobs.
The national support centers provide support and advice in a wide range of specialty areas for legal services programs around the country. With loss of federal funding, most now charge for their services, and some are avialable to private attorneys as well as to the legal services community.
The mission of the ACLU is to preserve all of these protections and guarantees: Your First Amendment rights-freedom of speech, association and assembly; Freedom of the press, and freedom of religion; equal protection under the law; due process; and right to privacy. We work also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor. The ACLU maintains chapters across the county.
The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law believes that the law can help get the poor out of poverty. We embrace a bold advocacy agenda that includes policy development and modern communications, resulting in improved lives for low-wage workers, families with greater economic security, and neighborhoods that preserve opportunities for low-income individuals.
The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national non-profit that works to improve the lives of low-income people. CLASP's mission is to improve the economic security, educational and workforce prospects, and family stability of low-income parents, children, and youth and to secure equal justice for all.
The Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) is a center for learning and innovation that advances human rights by stimulating the development of a public interest law infrastructure in a wide variety of countries. PILI uses the term "public interest law" to refer to a wide-ranging set of law-based activities designed to promote and protect the public interest. PILI's approach is to develop and support organizations and individuals who devote themselves to pursuing the public interest - an effort which is closely related to the development of civil society and the promotion and protection of human rights. Working primarily in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Asia, PILI conducts work in two principal areas: Institutional Reform
and Training and Education. In addition, PILI places a priority on the cross-cutting theme of combating discrimination because of its fundamental importance to the very notion of public interest work.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law unites thinkers and advocates in pursuit of a vision of inclusive and effective democracy. Our mission is to develop and implement an innovative, nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms. We use scholarship, public education, and legal action to find innovative and practical solutions to intractable problems in the areas of democracy, poverty, and criminal justice.
A dynamically linked listing of international legal aid programs.
Advocacy and Benefits Counseling for Health is a Wisconsin-based nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to ensuring health care access for children and families, particularly those with special needs or who are at risk.
The ARCW legal services program is solely dedicated to representing and counseling people with HIV/AIDS on a wide array of legal matters regardless of their ability to pay.
The ACLU is the nation's primary advocate of an individual's civil rights and civil liberties as guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
A broad-based immigration legal service project that assists immigrants and their families in completing immigration forms, translates documents required for the INS, provides legal representation in immigration court, provides education to immigrant groups on naturalization, adjustment of status and family-based immigration.
Centro Legal's mission is to provide efficient and effective in-court legal representation to the large number of low-income and non-English speaking litigants without access to attorneys in Milwaukee County's Family and Misdemeanor courts.
CWAG's Elder Law Center is a nationally-recognized provider of legal resources and services to Wisconsin's seniors and professionals who work with the elderly.
Disability Rights Wisconsin is a private, nonprofit agency chosen by Wisconsin's Governor to provide protection and advocacy for people with disabilities throughout the state.
Kids Matter, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving life opportunities and outcomes for children in foster and kinship care in Milwaukee County. Legal assistance programs assist children who have been victims of crime or abuse with many issues that require legal expertise.
The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee was founded in 1916 "to do all things necessary for the prevention of injustice." We are one of the nation's oldest, continuously operating, public interest law firms. In addition to representing individuals and families, the Legal Aid Society also challenges patterns and practices of abusive behavior by large corporations and governmental entities through litigation of class action and major impact cases.
Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. is the largest staff-based provider of civil legal services for low-income Wisconsin persons. Our priorities are based on the most crucial needs of our clients - safe and affordable housing, adequate income and nutrition, access to health care, preservation of the family and protection from domestic violence.
Midwest Environmental Advocates is the first and only non-profit environmental law center in Wisconsin. MEA provides legal and technical support to grassroots groups that are working for environmental justice in the Western Great Lakes region.
The Milwaukee Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Redress Committee assists individuals with complaints in employment, housing, and individual encountering difficulty in receiving various benefits.
Wisconsin Judicare's Indian Law Office provides representation to low income Native Americans in civil matters involving Indian law issues. Additionally, Judicare's Indian Law Office provides legal assistance to Indian tribes on a variety of tribal projects through contracts and agreements with individual tribes (e.g. tribal code development, lay advocate training, tribal/state judicial relations).