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The Happy Feminist

You said with regard to criminal law ". . .in law school I found myself almost always siding with the procedural limitations and 'loopholes' or technicalities that would frustrate some of my classmates."

I think you're right on here. I always tell people that there is no such thing as a "tehcnicality," because every legal rule is there for a reason, and it's usually an important reason that matters.

marianita

You are missing a lot of huge categories of public interest lawyering! There are so many ways that you can serve the public good without being a criminal defense atty- all kinds of civil rights impact litigation, direct legal services in underprivileged communities, teaching clinical law, legislative advocacy, researching for think tanks, and any number of policy making positions within federal, state and municipal governments. I think law schools and law students frequently forget about all these categories of lawyering- leading to a certain alienation and demoralization within the "public-interst-minded" students and lawyers. Anyway.

Jane

I was going to say the same thing marianita said. Public interest law encompasses much more than public defenders. (I tend not to think of prosecutors in this category. That may just be my bias. I know they work in the interest of the public.)

One thing that students with a public interest orientation often don't consider is that there are niches in private practice that position one to have the type of social impact that draws them to public interest law. I'm thinking of an attorney I know who is a partner in a small family law firm that does half its practice in the area of gay family law. She is, in a very real way, helping to shape the law in the state with regards to same sex relationships and same sex parenting.

Finally, I'm not sure if it's me being cynical or you being naive, but I don't think working for the attorney general's office would necessarily give you an opportunity to consider what is truly right. When your boss is an elected official, politics will always play a part in decision-making.

chipmunk

I too agree with Marianita. Public interest law involves more than just criminal law (I would argue that all law, even corporate law, is, by definition, public interest law - look at how the public will be affected by the ATT merger, or by enjoining the use of blackberrys - you can save this debate for another time). The NLADA website has a job board in which you can see some of the positions that exist under the heading "public interest law," though most jobs posted there fall under the traditional confines of poverty law, domestic violence, and criminal defense. The only downside to "public interest law" is that the practice areas are not as lucrative as the white shoe firms. On the other hand, the work can be challenging and rewarding. Two years out of law school I was dealing with constitutional issues on a daily basis. Friends who chose the white shoe law firms were doing document review in dusty warehouses, or were writing memorandum of law for senior associates who might include part of their research in a court filing. That said, I don't know of any classmates who chose that route and have to work in McDonalds to help pay the bills.

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