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.

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
  • Children and the Law
  • Professional Responsibility: Family Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Wrongful Conviction Seminar
  • Capital Murder Litigation
  • International Environmental Law
  • Race, Religion, and the Law Seminar
  • Employment Law
  • Employment Discrimination
  • Labor Law
  • Constitutional and Statutory Law of Public Employment
  • Intellectual Law and Policy
  • Election Law
  • Bioethics Seminar
  • Animal Law
  • Education Law
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Public Policy Research and Drafting
  • Poverty Law
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Housing Law

Experiential Learning

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 Intellecual Property and Transactional Law Clinic, Children's Defense Clinic, Family 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 Externship 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 ACLU of Virginia, 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.