Public Interest and Social Justice

Temple Law has long been recognized – locally and nationally – as one of the nation’s leading institutions in Public Interest and Social Justice legal education.  Offering a comprehensive, diverse, and supportive learning environment for civically-minded attorneys in training, Temple’s longstanding commitment to public service and equal access to justice is as evident outside of the classroom as it is within it.

As an integral part of our core identity, Temple’s commitment to Public Interest/Social Justice Law is evident in every facet of law school life.

Our faculty, curriculum, experiential programs, student groups, and external partner organizations – in conjunction with our Office of Career Services and Office of Public Interest Programs – all work together to build upon this robust tradition of excellence.

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Experiential Opportunities

Temple Law’s experiential programs offer a wide array of public interest opportunities for our students.

Doctrinal Courses

The public interest curriculum draws on the collective experience of the Temple Law faculty and has been thoughtfully designed to both instruct students in the areas of law most likely to arise in the context of a public interest practice, and to prepare them for the unique challenges of practice in this setting.

  • Access to Justice in Civil Matters
  • Animal Law
  • Bankruptcy
  • Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Law
  • Consumer Law and Litigation
  • Corporations
  • Custody Law
  • Death Penalty
  • Domestic Violence
  • Election Law
  • Emerging Trends in Labor Law
  • Employment Discrimination
  • Employment Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Families in Law and Public Policy
  • Family Law
  • Family Law Litigation Seminar
  • Immigration Law
  • International Development Law and Policy
  • International Law and Public Health
  • International Protection of Human Rights
  • Introduction to Public Interest Law
  • Labor Law
  • Land Use Planning
  • Law and Public Policy
  • Law and Public Policy II
  • Low Income Taxpayer Policy & Practice
  • Parents, Children and the State
  • Post-Conflict and Transitional Justice
  • Poverty Law
  • Refugee Law and Policy
  • Secured Transactions

Our Faculty

Public Interest Faculty

The Temple faculty is strongly supportive of public interest law and has an unparalleled depth of experience in public interest practice. Through the curriculum, their perspectives introduce our students to how law can be used as a vehicle for social change. Many of our faculty came to the law school from successful careers as public interest lawyers in diverse practice areas and settings. These include experiences in direct civil legal services to low-income clients at agencies; issue advocacy at non-profits; and state and federal government agencies. Be it through their academic research, teaching, student mentorship, pro bono activities, and public engagements – Temple faculty embody the unique and rare expertise that resides at the intersection of scholarly achievement and real-world experience.

Sheller Center Affiliated Faculty

All Faculty by Expertise

A Public Interest Mindset

  • “The power of a law degree is its capacity to permit the holder to help others, and that is a career I have pursued for 42 years – in indigent defense, capital case litigation, challenging wrongful convictions, and federal civil rights litigation. Even when victories are few and far between, or make only incremental change, they matter deeply to the clients and their communities. Working on such matters – cases, policy issues, legislation, community support – also enriches my teaching and the learning my students experience.”

    Author of quote
    Jules Epstein
    Director of Advocacy Programs
  • “Public interest isn’t necessarily about the kind of work you do; it’s more about your perspective on being a lawyer. Do you think of your role as one that pushes forward the cause of social justice? Are you giving of yourself to help others? Do you center the concepts of equity and equality in your work? Are you working to empower your clients? Do you make sure that people feel heard and valued? Will the work that you do leave the world a better place than it would otherwise be? These are the cornerstones of a public interest mindset.”

    Author of quote
    Shanda Sibley
    Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Sheller Center for Social Justice
  • “I try to infuse everything I do at Temple — teaching, research, and service — with concern for social justice. Promoting justice, particularly for people marginalized by structures of economic, social, and political power, is a core responsibility of all lawyers.”

    Author of quote
    Margaret M. deGuzman
    James E. Beasley Professor of Law; Co-Director, Institute for International Law and Public Policy
  • “Dedication to social justice is at the heart of Temple Law. I am constantly inspired by my students and their deep commitment to serving communities in need and pursuing systemic change in furtherance of equality and justice. Just this year, my students filed administrative claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act on behalf of families separated at the border and conducted country conditions research used by hundreds of asylum seekers to support their claims to protection. The students learned numerous lawyering skills from interviewing to factual research to legal analysis – and a meaningful lesson about how they can use law as a powerful tool for justice.”

    Author of quote
    Jaya Ramji-Nogales
    Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; I. Herman Stern Research Professor
  • “Public interest law can be so many different things—helping individuals traditionally denied access to justice, working to expand rights where they have been denied, tackling systemic problems like racism and poverty, helping individuals keep their homes or feed their children, addressing climate change—every law student should find an issue that means something to them and have the experience of using their legal skills to make a difference.”

    Author of quote
    Ellie Margolis
    Professor of Law
  • “Tax law is entirely about the public interest. Taxes not only pay for government, which ensures that we live under the rule of law and not whim or anarchy, but the tax system is the principal way the federal government delivers social safety net benefits and administers social programs. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit is an anti-poverty program and the home mortgage interest deduction is a housing program. Lawyers who work for the IRS work in the public interest too: a fairly run tax system benefits every member of the public.”

    Author of quote
    Alice G. Abreu
    Professor of Law and Director, Temple Center for Tax Law and Public Policy

Career Focus

Jorge Godoy

Director of Public Interest Programs

The Office of Public Interest Programs serves as the administrative hub for public interest activities at the law school and is a dedicated career services resource for students and graduates interested in public interest and pro bono opportunities. The office is led by an experienced public interest attorney and specializes in career counseling, networking support, job fair coordination, event programming, and post-graduate fellowship application assistance. The office also connects students with mentors, internships, and pro bono opportunities.

Each year, Temple Law graduates launch careers in public interest practice at a rate well above the regional and national averages, contributing to an extensive public interest alumni network and solidifying our position as a leader in public interest legal education and training.

Whatever a student’s individual career aspirations may be, Temple encourages all students to begin meeting their ethical obligations as future lawyers by participating in pro bono and community service activities while in law school. Typically, about a third of the graduating class qualifies for admission into the Rubin Public Interest Honor Society, which recognizes students who demonstrate exceptional commitment to public interest throughout law school.

Temple’s emphasis on service supports and nurtures students as they work on behalf of their communities during law school and upon graduation. If you have any questions, please request more information using the form at the bottom of the page, or contact me directly at jorge.godoy@temple.edu.

  • Public Interest law centers the lived experiences of client communities and with that powerful narrative, public interest lawyers work to effect change and ensure that all clients are treated with dignity and respect and gain access to justice. CLS values diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and this is reflective in our recruitment of law students with diverse backgrounds, many of whom come from Temple Law. The work that is done by our law student interns every year, and the partnership we have with Temple Law, furthers our mission and our core values by engaging with students who come to the table ready to fight for justice. We have had incredible and fortunate experiences with our Temple Law students, who have represented our clients and engaged in our advocacy with stealth and resolve. Our partnership with Temple Law is valuable and rewarding, and I myself am a Temple Law alum so that partnership is made all the more rewarding. We look forward to always continuing and strengthening that partnership, so that our law students experience first-hand that a career in public interest legal services is a foundational piece to eradicating poverty and systemic racism.

    Brenda L. Marrero, Esq.
    Deputy Director of Operations and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Community Legal Services, Inc.
  • We love partnering with Temple University Beasley School of Law and have long-been impressed by the brilliant students we’re privileged to work with at the Education Law Center. From the dedicated students who volunteer with School Discipline Advocacy Service to the passionate students working with the incredible staff of the Sheller Center, the students are deeply committed to public interest law. We could not do our work to ensure access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania without our outstanding Temple Law interns, legal fellows, and staff attorneys!

    Deborah Gordon Klehr
    Executive Director, Education Law Center
  • It is a tremendous honor for YSRP to partner with dedicated and justice-seeking students from Temple Law each year. In addition to adding much-needed capacity to our small team with big goals, Temple Law students bring fresh ideas and a fiery passion to our work. Their energy is contagious. 

    As an inaugural client of the Justice Lab clinic, it was a highlight to work with Temple Law students and professors to collectively achieve a moratorium by the City of Philadelphia on a decades-long practice of charging parents for the cost of their children’s incarceration. We knew that in order to tackle this issue with the attention and resources it deserved, we needed a strong partner, and engaged with the Justice Lab to dig deeper. Each of the students we worked with was consistently hardworking, brilliant, and insightful. The same is true for the students we supervise each semester, who propel our work forward in invigorating and inspiring ways. 

    We are grateful to Temple Law, and particularly the Public Interest Programs, for enriching our work and helping to move our city toward justice.

    Lauren Fine, Esq.
    Co-Director, Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP)
  • Through Al Otro Lado’s partnership with Temple Law School, students work on the cases of individual asylum seekers at the US Mexico border, as well impact litigation projects which challenge human rights violations in the US immigration and detention systems. It has never been more important for lawyers to stand in solidarity with immigrants, and to work toward dismantling a system in which family separation, detention, and deportation to one’s death are routine. Through this partnership we hope to inspire students not to not only practice law on behalf of immigrants, but to disrupt, deconstruct and redefine the systems that oppress immigrants in the first place.

    Nicole Elizabeth Ramos
    Director of Al Otro Lado’s Border Rights Project

Financial Support for Public Interest

Established by friends and family to honor the memory of Andrew Bralow ’77, this scholarship is awarded to a student who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to public service.

This scholarship provides financial support for the education and training of outstanding law students who demonstrate financial need as well as commitment and service to the work of the Center for Social Justice in an effort to keep the promise of “justice for all.”

Donated by the widow and friends of former Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Gelfand, this fund provides financial aid to a second-year student who demonstrates financial need and public service through activities at the law school.

Established in 1999 by Judge Green’s current and former law clerks and staff in honor of his distinguished service as a federal judge, this scholarship is awarded to a second-year day or third-year evening student who has demonstrated a commitment to public interest law or pro bono legal service. The scholarship is provided as financial assistance to enable a student to continue working in the public interest sector during the summer.

As a memorial to Rita S. Levine ’74 and in recognition of her devotion to public service, her family established this award which provides supplemental support to a student selected a Public Interest Scholar.

Established by the Newell DeValpine Foundation, this three-year scholarship honors Henry W. Maxmin ’37 and provides a half-tuition scholarship at Pennsylvania rates to an outstanding student in the first year who demonstrates commitment to a career in public interest law.

Created by Mrs. Schrull in memory of her husband, a noted public service lawyer for over 30 years and an administrative law judge with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the fund provides financial aid to students, preferably from Pennsylvania, who demonstrate need and an interest in public service law.

Established by family, friends and colleagues to honor the memory of John W. Walter, ’70. As a student he was very involved in the Legal Aid Society and later returned to the law school to serve as Dean of Students. The scholarship awards grants to students who are working in public interest positions and who exhibit Mr. Walter’s commitment to serving indigent clients.

Engaged Student Organizations

Temple’s student groups are engaged in diverse areas of public interest/social justice work and committed to serving the law school and broader community.  

SPIN provides peer support and raises essential funds for students working in summer public interest internships. SPIN benefits from a broad membership that includes students seeking opportunities in public interest and those more oriented toward private opportunities, who all agree on the importance of fundraising for and supporting student public interest work as a community. The annual 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.

NLG boasts a lively variety of student-run committees that provide programming and pro bono and advocacy opportunities related to social justice causes and lawyering. Committees have included but are not limited to an Expungement Pro Bono Project, Immigration & Human Rights, Juvenile Justice & Youth Empowerment, Labor & Employment, and Prisoner Outreach.

TAB was formed to provide students with the opportunity to spend spring break performing service to a community in need. In recent years, a group of Temple law students have traveled to New Orleans to assist with rebuilding efforts in the region.

SDAS is a coalition of law students, housed at Temple University Beasley School of Law, working to stem the school-to-prison pipeline by advocating on behalf of students and parents at Philadelphia public and charter school disciplinary hearings.

Learn More

Still have questions? Complete the form below to request more information.