Public Interest Lawyers


Employment Prospects


Approximately 657,170 lawyers are employed in the United States. The list of PIL employers is endless—ranging from government agencies, to nonprofit organizations, to advocacy groups. Organizations such as Equal Justice Works ( offer programs for lawyers to match their pro bono legal services to individuals or areas that need them most. Many private law firms also encourage their lawyers to provide pro bono work or volunteer in other capacities.

Starting Out

Beginning lawyers often work as law clerks or as assistants to senior lawyers doing research work and other routine tasks. After a few years of experience, they may be assigned their own cases; some may choose to go into private practice specializing in public interest law.

Many new lawyers are recruited by law firms or other employers directly from law school. Recruiters come to the school and interview possible hires. Other new graduates can get job leads from local and state bar associations.

Advancement Prospects

Lawyers, if they choose to pursue the specialty of public interest law, can advance by being assigned more responsibilities within their organization or firm. They can lead entire projects, take on higher profile cases, or represent an advocacy group. Public defenders can be promoted from the state to the federal level. Some public interest lawyers become law professors or judges.

Tips for Entry

Visit to learn more about a career in public interest law.

Use the NALP Directory of Legal Employers ( to search for employers by location, employer type, practice areas, and other criteria.

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:


Conduct information interviews with public interest lawyers and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.