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Public Interest Law

To earn a Public Interest Law Certificate, a student must:

  1. complete at least 9 units of course work selected from the list of approved Public Interest Law Certificate elective courses;
  2. complete a practicum requirement and community service related to public interest law; and
  3. complete an upper level research and writing requirement analyzing an issue related to public interest law.

Note: The curriculum below is subject to change and not all courses are offered every year.

Courses Units
Administrative Law 3
Advanced Criminal Procedure 3
Animals & Justice Seminar 3
Climate Change Seminar 3
Domestic Violence Law & Litigation 3
Election Law 3
Education Law 3
Employee Benefits (ERISA) 3
Employment Discrimination 3
Employment Law 3
Employment Law Seminar 3
Energy Law 3
Environmental Law 3
Family Law 3
First Amendment & Free Speech 3
Health Law 3
Immigration Law 3
Information Law 3
International Human Rights 3
Interrogations & Confessions 3
Juvenile Law 3
Labor Law 3
Poverty Law 3
Practice Ready Leadership for the Nonprofit Sector


Racism & Justice in American Legal History 3
Reproductive Rights & Justice Seminar 3
Sexuality Law 3
Trial Practice: Criminal Law 3
Water (& Natural Resources) Law 3
Wrongful Conviction Seminar 3


Students in the Public Interest Law Certificate program must complete a minimum of 150 hours of supervised legal work in a public interest organization, qualifying government agency, or court. This requirement may be satisfied through participation in one of the following clinical programs:

The following clinics satisfy the PIL Certificate Practicum Requirements only. They do not count towards elective units.
Clinic Portion of Practicum Satisfied
Criminal & Juvenile Justice Clinic and International Human Rights Clinic Entire practicum requirement
Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic, Immigration Policy Clinic, and Internet & IP Justice Clinic Partial practicum requirement
Racial Justice Clinic Partial practicum requirement

Community Service

Students must complete a minimum of 50 volunteer hours with organizations on projects that benefit the public. Community service hours may be completed with legal or non-legal organizations. Projects may include work that you perform through USF’s Pro Bono program, individually, or as part of a student group with an organization in the community.

Writing Requirement

To earn the certificate, a student must complete a substantial research paper analyzing an issue relevant to public interest law. The paper must demonstrate the ability to identify, describe, and analyze the subject matter, and, if possible, propose a resolution. The paper must meet the standards for an upper level research and writing requirement project and may be used to satisfy that requirement and/or the requirements of a course taken for credit.

Scholastic Requirements

Public Interest Law recipients must achieve a grade of C+ or higher in each course applied to meet the requirements for the certificate and achieve a cumulative grade point average of 2.700 or higher for all courses applied to the certificate.

A student achieving a cumulative grade point average of 3.500 or higher for all courses applied to meet the requirements of the certificate is awarded the certificate with honors.

All course work for the certificate must be taken for a letter grade except for any approved elective course in which credit/no credit grading is mandatory. For any course in which a letter grade is not provided, a "credit" must be achieved in order for the course to be applied to meet the certificate requirements.

Transfer Units

All course work must be taken at USF with the exception of one elective course (for a maximum of three units of credit). If a student wishes to apply to a course taken at another law school to meet the requirements of the Business Law Certificate, prior approval must be obtained by the associate dean of academic affairs. The student must take the course for a letter grade and earn a grade of C+ or higher for credit to be applied to the Business Law Certificate. A course taken at another law school will be transferred as "credit" only for purposes of determining the Business Law Certificate grade point average as well as for calculating the USF semester and cumulative grade point averages.

Applying for the Certificate

To be eligible to receive a Public Interest Law Certificate, a student must submit a Public Interest Law Certificate Application to the USF School of Law Office of the Registrar. Applications will not be accepted until the student's second-to-last semester. Applications must be submitted on or before the last day to drop classes in that semester. Students may obtain only one certificate. No student will be awarded more than one certificate upon completion of the JD degree, even if such student completed the requirements to more than one certificate program. It is each student's responsibility to ensure that all requirements for the Public Interest Law Certificate are satisfied in a timely manner.