Public Interest and Public Policy Curriculum

Many students enter law school with the goal of improving the world. The public interest curriculum at the University of Richmond School of Law assists students with attaining that goal, whether they pursue a full-time public interest practice or volunteer their time through pro bono service. Our curriculum is as diverse as the breadth of public interest law itself, with courses in constitutional law, criminal law, family law, legal ethics, education, the environment, and civil rights. This overview is designed to give all students information regarding opportunities in public interest and policy law.

Introductory Courses

All students take Constitutional Law in the spring semester of their first year. In addition, every student is given the option to choose a public interest elective in the spring semester. Oftentimes, these electives satisfy preliminary requirements for several upper level electives in the public interest and policy arena. Therefore, students are encouraged to consider their upper level curricular goals when selecting their first year elective. The first year electives currently offered that touch on public law issues include Family Law and Environmental Law.

Upper-Level Electives

The diversity of upper-level electives reflects the wide range of topical areas in the public interest and policy law field. Nearly every course in the curriculum addresses public policy in some manner. The following list of courses is a small sampling of courses at the School of Law that introduce students to public interest law or policymaking:

Civil Rights Litigation
First Amendment Law
Administrative Law
Local Government Law
Human Rights Seminar
Domestic Violence Seminar
Family Law
Advanced Family Law Seminar
Children and the Law
Child Support Law
Ethical Issues in Family Law
Focus on the Family
Immigration Law
Wrongful Conviction Seminar
Capital Murder Litigation
International Environmental Law
International Environmental Law Seminar
Climate Change Seminar
Sexual Orientation and the Law
Religion and the Constitution
Race, Religion, and the Law Seminar
Marriage, Money and Law Seminar
Poverty Law
Employment Law
Employment Discrimination
Labor Law
Constitutional and Statutory Law of Public Employment
Comparative Labor and Employment Law
Intellectual Law and Policy
Indian Law Seminar
Election Law
Bioethics Seminar
Animal Law
Education Law
Muslim Family Law Seminar
Non-Profit Organizations

Clinical Opportunities

Students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the law school’s clinical offerings in the public interest and policy law field. These clinics focus upon the development of practical skills through representation of disenfranchised individuals and/or legislative advocacy for issues that affect them. The current in-house clinical opportunities include the Education Rights Clinic, Children's Defense Clinic, Family Law Clinic, Advanced Children’s Law Clinic, and the Institute for Actual Innocence.

Students interested in a public interest and policy law externship during law school should also consider the Clinical Placement Program. This program places students in a variety of civil and criminal public interest and policy law settings, including legal aid centers, government offices, and nonprofit organizations. The Virginia Poverty Law Center, the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Attorney General’s Office, the Office of the Capital Defender, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are just a few of the placements that are available.

Pro Bono Opportunities

Pro-bono work, literally “for the public good,” is an integral part of what it means to be an attorney. The University of Richmond is deeply committed to pro bono work and actively encourages its students to engage in pro bono service with the twin goals of serving the public and instilling a sense of civic pride and responsibility that students will carry on with them as professionals. Law students have numerous opportunities to get a head start on their lifelong commitment to pro bono work through a wide range of opportunities, including the Protective Order Project, No Fault Divorce Program, Immigrant Victims Assistance Project, Assistance to Disabled Veterans, Estate Planning, Legislative Research and Analysis, and Pro Bono Criminal Appeals Program.

Dual Degree Program

Law students have the opportunity to pursue joint degrees in the public interest and policy fields through the University of Richmond’s partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University. Current joint degree offerings include Master of Social Work, Master of Health Administration, Master of Public Administration, and Master of Urban Studies and Planning. Applicants for the dual degree programs must meet the admission standards of the law school and the respective graduate division of Virginia Commonwealth University. Students accepted into this program will be permitted to count one semester's work in the law school toward meeting the master's degree requirements at VCU, and one semester's work at VCU will be counted toward meeting the graduation requirements of the law school. As a result, participants in the dual degree program may complete the requirements of the J.D. and master’s degree in four years.


Many professors at the School of Law have interests in the public law area. If you have any questions about the public interest and policy law curriculum at the University of Richmond, please contact Adrienne Volenik, Meredith Harbach, Jack Preis, or Tara Casey (the director of our pro bono services program).