Public Interest Law

UC Hastings offers academic concentrations, research opportunities and clinical experience dedicated to public interest law and social justice.

What is Public Interest Law?

Public interest law protects the basic human and legal rights of the poor and marginalized, and it is one of UC Hastings’s greatest academic and clinical strengths. Not only will you take classes from faculty with decades of experience in fields like human rights law, immigrant and refugee rights law, worker’s rights law and women’s rights law, but you will directly assist underrepresented groups and individuals in the community through our law clinics and pro bono work.

Social Justice Concentration

Prepare for a career in public interest law through UC Hastings’ unique Social Justice Lawyering concentration. Choose from more than 90 courses like International Human Rights, Public Health and Homelessness, and Terrorism and the Law, and get credit for working in the Civil Justice Clinic, a powerful community resource. The concentration is led by 30 UC Hastings faculty and some of the best public interest lawyers in San Francisco and the nation.

Public Interest Law Clinics

The Civil Justice Clinic at UC Hastings offers real-world opportunities to positively impact the community and gain critical experience in fields like employment law, housing law, disability law, and refugee and human rights law. You will work directly with clients under faculty supervision, and you will enrich your experience by taking classes in a related discipline. We can also place you with community law clinics at government or nonprofit organizations specializing in immigrant rights, workers’ rights and more.

Outreach Organizations and Research Institutes

UC Hastings students and faculty share a passion for civil justice and public service. Together, we support a growing number of initiatives committed to creating a more fair and equitable society:

General Assistance and Advocacy Project (GAAP) []

  • Founded in 1985 by UC Hastings students, GAAP is both a student group and a registered non-profit serving thousands of homeless and marginalized San Franciscans.

Public Law Research Institute (PLRI)

  • UC Hastings students conduct research and analysis for state legislators and local government on topics like health law, welfare reform and economic development.

Hastings Tenderloin Tutoring Program (HTTP)

  • UC Hastings students tutor neighborhood children between the ages of 5 and 17 in support of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation’s After-School Program.

Public Interest Job Fair

UC Hastings hosts the annual Public Interest Public Center Career Day [], one of the largest public interest law career fairs in the country. More than 100 employers representing local, state, and federal agencies, as well as public interest organizations doing class action work, direct legal services, legislative, and community work come to interview and meet with students.

Fellowships & Loan Repayment

We support UC Hastings graduates who choose careers in public interest law through fellowships and a generous loan repayment program:

Loan Repayment Assistance (PICAP)

  • UC Hastings will make 90% to 100% of your federal student loan payments if you choose to work in the non-profit or public sector.

The Abascal Fellowship

  • A $40,000 annual stipend to a recent UC Hastings graduate involved in a public interest project.

Stephen Cone Fellowship

  • A monetary stipend for first-year students conducting summer research for a public interest organization.

UC Hastings is committed to providing opportunities for students to serve the community and prepare themselves for a career in public interest practice. Here are some of the ways UC Hastings students can work in public interest while in law school:

  • Clinics
  • Student-Initiated Activities
  • College-Sponsored Programs

Student-Initiated Activities

UC Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation (HPILF)
HPILF is a student organization that raises money for grants that fund student public interest work, sponsors public interest events, and works to create a community of students dedicated to public interest law.

General Assistance and Advocacy Project (GAAP)
GAAP was founded in 1985 by a group of UC Hastings students interested in helping those in need to navigate the maze of public assistance. Now an independent organization, GAAP has helped many UC Hastings students realize the need for good and effective advocacy. Thanks to UC Hastings students, GAAP remains an independent force in the neighborhood surrounding the Law School.

Through GAAP, students provide public benefits assistance to homeless and marginally-housed San Franciscans. GAAP provides education, empowerment, and advocacy to clients through the involvement of law students, undergraduates, and community volunteers. Civil Justice Clinic faculty and other UC Hastings faculty have served on the GAAP Board.

UC Hastings Tenderloin Tutoring Program (HTTP)
Each semester, 16 to 18 UC Hastings students tutor children between the ages of 5 and 17 years in the nearby Tenderloin neighborhood. HTTP helps support the many services of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) After-School Program.

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College-Sponsored Programs

Public Interest Law Concentration
Students interested in deeply exploring social justice work may earn a certificate of concentration in public interest law. The concentration’s core shared experience is a year-long seminar that students take in the second year of law school. The seminar builds community between like-minded students and faculty, introduces students to the life of a public interest lawyer, and helps students plan how to optimally take advantage of UC Hastings’ offerings and the Bay Area’s opportunities in the field.

ACCESS Program
In partnership with the San Francisco Superior Court’s ACCESS (Assisting Court Customers with Educational and Self-Help Services) Center, students provide free walk-in legal assistance. Under the supervision of court staff attorneys, students work directly with unrepresented litigants with real legal issues.

UC Hastings-to-Haiti Partnership
The UC Hastings-to-Haiti Partnership is an annual delegation in which UC Hastings law students visit a sister law school in Haiti to help strengthen the Rule of Law in Haiti through supporting legal education.

Public Interest/Public Sector (PI/PS) Day
UC Hastings is one of nine sponsoring schools of one of the largest public interest and public sector job fairs in the country. More than 100 employers representing local, state, and federal agencies, as well as public interest organizations doing class action work, direct legal services, legislative, and community work come to interview and meet with students.

Special Funding

  • Stephen Cone Fellowship. A monetary stipend awarded each year to a first-year student doing summer research for a public interest organization or organizing a program for UC Hastings students for whom English is a second language.
  • The Abascal Fellowship, a $40,000 annual grant to a recent UC Hastings graduate who is working on a project that includes legal advocacy, community education, and policy change in areas affecting people who are denied access to the legal system.

Public Interest Ceremony
Every year, UC Hastings hosts a Public Interest Ceremony for students, faculty, staff, and family, bringing together and honoring the many ways that students contribute to public interest on campus. The event features a keynote address from a prominent public interest attorney. The event has grown over the last several years to include several student-run public interest organizations, school clinics, and other public interest programs.

Loan Repayment Assistance (PICAP)
PICAP provides loan-repayment assistance to UC Hastings graduates working full-time in public interest positions with private, non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations or government agencies.