Specialty Programs: Public Interest Law

Golden Gate University School of Law is consistently ranked one of the best public interest law schools in the country. Last year, the National Jurist found that Golden Gate University was one of the two best in California.

The Public Interest Law program owes its reputation to several factors:
  1. A Comprehensive Curriculum: including many first-year offerings and extending to every area of public interest law.
  2. A Formidable Externship Program: ranked third in the nation in a 2010 study by Professor James Backman of Brigham Young University. Most GGU students participate in this program and obtain hands-on public interest law-related experience.
  3. Expert Faculty: renowned as public interest leaders. Likewise, GGU's clinics and centers all focus on public interest issues.
  4. Student Organizations: creating a community deeply committed to public service.
  5. Curricular Specializations: offering students the chance to focus their public interest studies.
  6. Grants and Scholarships: providing an enormous amount of money to students.

Each year, a comparatively large percentage of Golden Gate University graduates directly enter the public and nonprofit sectors. It is thus no surprise that many of the region's public interest leaders are graduates of GGU.


Golden Gate University School of Law is working with other Bay Area organizations and law schools to provide access to legal representation to some of the Bay Area's most vulnerable communities. The Bay Area Legal Incubator (BALI) will provide a two-year training program in which recent admittees to the California Bar will be provided with extensive support, mentoring, and education on how to successfully operate a solo or small firm practice that serves the legal needs of the modest means community.

The goal of the project is two-fold:
  1. to provide sustainable, long-term employment for recently admitted alumni; and,
  2. to increase access to justice for the people of modest means.

The BALI project is a collaboration between Volunteer Legal Services Corporation, the Alameda Bar Association, and five Bay Area Law Schools (Golden Gate University School of Law; University of California, Hastings College of the Law; Santa Clara University, School of Law; University of California, Berkeley School of Law; and University of San Francisco School of Law).

Participants are selected based on their commitment to access to justice and a demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit. GGU's internal deadline has not been decided for the upcoming year, but all participants will be selected no later than September 30, 2016. Any participant who is accepted into the program, but has not yet passed the bar, will be accepted pending bar results. In the event that a participant does not pass the bar, their slot will be filled with a person from the waiting list. However, upon bar passage, the previously selected applicant may receive preference for the next "class" of the project.

For additional information please visit the BALI website.


The Career Center
Public Interest

Golden Gate University selects a number of incoming students each year as Public Interest Law Scholars or Environmental Legal Scholars. These students attend monthly events, receive guidance and advice from alumni mentors, and are given regular opportunities to network with public interest lawyers. The school also provides these students with an annual scholarship.


Golden Gate University maintains a number of faculty-run public interest programs including the Center on Urban Environmental Law, the Poverty Law Program, and the Katrina and Disaster Law Program.


The Law Student Pro Bono Project connects students with short-term and long-term volunteer projects all around the Bay Area. As volunteers, students can staff client intake clinics, engage in legislative advocacy and policy work, and represent low-income families in a variety of substantive legal areas. The project time commitments are flexible to accommodate the student schedule. For those students looking to do some pro bono work over winter/spring breaks, there will be opportunities available.

If you have any questions about pro bono projects, please contact OneJustice at 415-834-0100.

The Public Interest Career Counselor maintains a list of current pro bono opportunities. The Public Interest Career Counselor also continually develops new pro bono opportunities. Students can discuss their interest areas, skills, and scheduling needs with the Public Interest Career Counselor who will counsel them on the appropriate placement. New opportunities are promoted through workshops, the law school's social media, at all Law Career Development events and via a weekly newsletter. Outstanding pro bono work is recognized at Commencement and on an ongoing basis.

Pro Bono Honor Society

To acknowledge and reward those students who dedicate a significant portion of their time to helping others through the Law Student Pro Bono Program, GGU has established a Pro Bono Honor Society.

Membership in this society will signify that a student has performed at least 10 hours of pro bono work in his/her first year and at least 25 hours of pro bono work for each of the upper-class years. The top five hours earners for the year prior to induction will receive special recognition.

Students inducted into the Society will receive a certificate stating their membership and can note membership on their resumes. Graduating inductees will be recognized at commencement and will receive a gift to recognize their contributions.

Public Interest Law Foundation

PILF is dedicated to advancing public interest through law by encouraging and supporting members who give back to the community. PILF assists students in finding legal employment and involvement opportunities in public interest and in government. It also provides forum to hear from faculty and practicing attorneys about their public interest experiences and to discuss issues within public interest fields. Each spring, PILF awards summer grants to current students working in public interest positions and holds an auction and raffle to raise money for these programs. For more information, please contact ggu.pilf@gmail.com.


Eligible students who are working at qualified public interest organizations, government agencies, or private firms may participate in this program in which the employer pays a portion of the student's wage and the federal government pays the other portion. If the employer cannot afford to pay the student law clerks, Golden Gate University will pay the employer's share of the student's wage.

Administered by:

The Financial Aid Office
536 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

Public Interest

As the premier public interest law school in the region, Golden Gate University ensures that all first-year students view their first-year curriculum through a social justice lens. First-year students also have the option to select a first-year public interest elective course in the public interest, e.g., Asylum Law, Ethics in Criminal Law, and Social Justice.

Golden Gate University School of Law also requires that all students must complete at least 3 credits of a clinic, externship, or public interest hands-on law-related experience.

Upon graduation, students may earn a specialization certificate in public interest law. This specialization requires specialized coursework, and supervised legal work in a public interest or government setting. Graduating students receive a notation on their transcript that informs potential employers of their demonstrated commitment to public interest.


Golden Gate University is part of a consortium, including West Coast law schools and the Society of American Law Teachers, that sponsors the Annual Trina Grillo Public Interest and Social Justice Retreat. The Trina Grillo provides a unique opportunity for law students, faculty, and practitioners to exchange viewpoints, explore career opportunities, and formulate creative strategies for social justice. Golden Gate University hosted the 14th Annual Trina Grillo Retreat in March 2012. Students are encouraged to attend annually each Spring.

Public Interest

Golden Gate University provides stipends to recent graduates who perform legal volunteer work for a public interest not-for-profit organization or government agency. Please see this document for program summary, eligibility, application instructions, and FAQs.


To help students who secure employment in low-paying public interest and government jobs, Golden Gate University offers a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). Under LRAP, Golden Gate University makes a loan to qualifying graduates to assist them with their law school loan repayments. If a graduate remains eligible throughout the year, the loan is fully forgiven in October of the following year. There is no limit to the number of years a GGU graduate can receive LRAP support.

For more information, contact:

Laura Clemens
Associate Dean of Career Services

  • lclemens@ggu.edu