Public Interest Law

Public Interest at Temple Law

A Video Message From Professor Lee Carpenter

Temple Law has always been known for its strong commitment to public interest law and to the Philadelphia public interest/public service community. This reputation is well deserved - in a typical academic year, approximately one third of the graduating class has performed enough pro bono work to qualify for membership in the Rubin Public Interest Honor Society. Our faculty - many of whom came to the law school from successful careers as public interest lawyers - are strongly supportive of Temple’s public interest program and the students who make it come to life. At the center of it all is the Office of Public Interest Programs, which organizes and supports a wide range of public interest law activities and works closely with public interest-oriented students, helping them secure rewarding jobs and post-graduate fellowships.

The faculty and the Office of Public Interest Programs also provide direct support to students who seek post-graduate public interest fellowships. Temple has had an impressive track record of placing students in fellowships. In recent years, our graduates have been selected by the Independence Foundation to pursue projects such as creating medical legal partnerships at the Legal Clinic for the Disabled, representing kinship caregivers in family law proceedings at the Seniorlaw Center, and advocating for families facing eligibility issues with Medicaid at Community Legal Services. Through the Equal Justice Works Fellowships, our graduates have worked at Philadelphia Legal Assistance on issues facing the Eastern European community of Philadelphia; at Community Legal Services on addressing issues faced by survivors of domestic violence in public housing; and at the Southern Juvenile Defender Center in Atlanta.

Finally, Philadelphia has a wide array of public interest organizations that offer summer, part-time, and volunteer opportunities as well as potential full-time employment after graduation.

Financial Support for Public Interest

The Rubin-Presser Public Interest Scholars Program annually awards substantial scholarships to three or four entering law students who exhibit leadership potential and demonstrate exceptional ability and a longstanding commitment to public interest work. Scholars also benefit from one-on-one mentoring and specialized coursework. Admitted students are invited to apply for these scholarships in the spring preceding their matriculation to the law school.

Summer internships are crucial to every law student's professional development. Since public sector employers can rarely afford to pay summer interns, students pursuing public interest work often require financial support. Each year, Temple Law provides summer funding to nearly 100 students through a combination of work study, funding from the Temple Law Foundation and money raised by The Student Public Interest Network (SPIN). SPIN, a student group dedicated to promotion public interest law at Temple, holds an annual auction to raise funds for summer internships.

The Barrack Fellows program, which was created in 1991, provides post-graduate financial assistance to young public service lawyers. Through the Barrack Fellows program, recent law school graduates are assisted in meeting their financial obligations while working at a chosen career in public interest or the public sector. Already, the Barrack Fellowships have provided funding to nearly 200 graduates.

Learn more about the Rubin-Presser Public Interest Scholars Program

Learn more about the Barrack Public Interest Fellowship (LRAP)

Summer Public Interest Funding

Engaged Students

At Temple, students find an atmosphere where the ideals of service and equal justice are supported by an administration, faculty, and their peers.

Several student groups keep Temple's public interest community strong.

The Student Public Interest Network (SPIN)
SPIN provides peer support and raises essential funds for students working in summer public interest internships. The SPIN Auction is a key component to this fundraising and involves the dedicated work of students, faculty and administrators. SPIN also organizes and hosts an annual public interest forum centered on topics of importance to the Temple and Philadelphia community.
The Temple law student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
NLG runs Temple's Street Law program and an Immigration Project and hosts regular guest speakers and lecturers on subjects such as reproductive rights and criminal defense.
Temple Alternative Break (TAB)
TAB was formed to provide students with the opportunity to spend spring break performing service to a community in need. During the past five years, a group of Temple law students have traveled to New Orleans to assist with rebuilding efforts in the region.
The Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review
The Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review, established in 1991, is a student-edited scholarly journal which provides a forum for the discussion of contemporary political and civil rights issues. Each year, the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review sponsors a symposium that attracts nationally recognized scholars and practitioners who speak on cutting edge legal topics. Recent topics include aging as a civil rights issue; bullying; LGBT youth; and immigration reform and policy in the U.S.

Committed Faculty

The Temple faculty is strongly supportive of public interest law and many faculty members worked in the public sector before becoming professors. Their backgrounds are as diverse as they are - Community Legal Services, Inc., the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Education Law Center, and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society can all count Temple Law faculty among their alumni, as can government agencies like the United States Department of Justice, several regional District Attorney’s offices, and the Public Defenders, among others.

The Office of Public Interest Programs

The Office of Public Interest Programs provides a central location for career counseling, public interest programming, and pro bono opportunities. In addition to providing public interest scholarships and a well-established loan repayment assistance program, Temple also encourages all students to begin meeting their ethical obligation as future lawyers by offering pro bono opportunities and community service activities. Through Temple's clinical program, students become "student attorneys," handling their own cases with real clients and with the support of an experienced practitioner. The Temple Law faculty has an unparalleled depth of experience in public interest practice, introducing our students to how law can be used as a vehicle for social change.

Temple leads the region in public interest placement by placing more graduates in public interest jobs than any other law school in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Temple also typically exceeds the national average for public interest placement each year. Temple's emphasis on helping others allows students to feel supported and nurtured in their desire to provide service to their communities.

Temple's Office of Public Interest Programs

Clinicals

Temple's clinical program, established in 1953 with the opening of the Temple Legal Aid Office, is one of the most popular programs at the Law School. Clinicals offer students the opportunity to receive academic credit for supervised work in diverse professional settings.

Approximately 250 opportunities are offered each year and include public interest and public sector experiences ranging from family law to criminal defense to environmental law to transactional law. Many graduates report that a clinical course was the highlight of their law school experience and for some, a clinical changed the direction of their legal career.

Explore Temple's Clinical Programs

Commitment to Service

Temple Law students can take advantage of our partnerships with several local and regional agencies to do public interest work across a wide range of community needs. Following are some examples of opportunities available to Temple Law students.

Domestic Violence Assistance Project (DVAP)
This project, developed by The Women's Law Project, in cooperation with Philadelphia Legal Assistance, helps domestic violence victims who are filing for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order in Philadelphia Family Court. Trained law students staff the PFA filing site during business hours, providing information on the legal process and safety planning as well as referrals to free legal assistance. Volunteers bridge the information gap for many victims who are experiencing the court system for the first time under very stressful circumstances.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Each spring, members of the Temple Law community come together to assist hundreds of low income taxpayers with their federal and state tax returns in one of our most popular pro bono projects. Providing income tax assistance is truly a family affair, with J.D. and LL.M. students, faculty, and administration volunteering their time and working side by side.

The Campaign for Working Families provides free tax preparation services at several tax sites throughout Philadelphia, including one on Temple's Main Campus. Professors Alice Abreu, Robert Bartow, Jan Ting and several students help to staff this site, one of the largest in the city.

The Pennsylvania Farmworker Project of Philadelphia Legal Assistance also operates a VITA clinic on Saturdays in February and April serving the Spanish-speaking community in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The clinic has benefited from Temple students' language and tax preparation skills for many years, and many students return to the clinic year after year.

In addition to Temple's several longstanding pro bono programs, the Public Interest Experience (PIE) provides all Temple law students with the chance to participate in pro bono work through academic year internships at public interest agencies around the Philadelphia area. Students volunteer their time at SeniorLAW Center, Community Legal Services, the Montgomery County Public Defender, Prevention Point Legal Clinic, and many others. Placing students directly within these agencies introduces students to Philadelphia's vibrant legal services community while supporting the important work of the agencies.