University of Southern California Gould School of Law

University of Southern California Gould School of Law
Los Angeles, CA 90089

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Laura Riley
Director of Experiential Learning
213 821-4705


Category Type

Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by a Referral System with Coordinator


Description of Programs

The student-run Pro Bono Campaign, begun in 1992, encourages students to perform a minimum of 35 hours of pro bono during the school year. Two officers of the Public Interest Law Foundation are dedicated exclusively to the Pro Bono Campaign. The Associate Dean for the Office of Public Service and the Assistant Dean for the Career Services Office advise and support the students, as does the entire PILF Board which includes two deans, a faculty member and five graduates.

Pro bono opportunities are promoted and facilitated through various means. Some programs are run through our in-house clinics or the Office of Public Service; others are coordinated with local legal services offices, many of which include student trainings offered in the Law School building; and additional opportunities are off-site. All programs are advertised in the Law School's weekly newsletter and through a pro bono listserv.

USC also requires an upper-division professional skills course which may be satisfied by taking a clinical course or externship.


Location of Programs

A Stand Alone Program



PILF is a student-run organization that sponsors as many as 23 pro bono clinics in the community. Several other student organizations such as Street Law and La Raza offer additional pro bono opportunities available to all law students.

The Office of Public Service supports and advises PILF's pro bono clinic co-chairs and connects them with community organizations in need of pro bono law students.



Pro bono work at the Law School is supported through the Law School budget, foundations, donations from individuals and law firms.


Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

La Raza Teen Court and Teen Mentoring

PILF Pro Bono Clinics

Street Law Program - Utilizes 25-50 law student volunteers who teach about the law and serve as mentors to hundreds of public high school students.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

There is no formal faculty pro bono policy. However, public and community service activities are among the criteria used in annual faculty evaluations.

Some clinical faculty supervise pro bono projects.



The PILF Spring Awards Luncheon honors summer grant and clinical fellowship recipients, outstanding alumni and students in public interest, post-graduate fellowship recipients, and students who fulfilled more than 20 hours of public interest service.

Annual Law School Awards ceremony honors recipients of Shattuck Awards, Mason Brown Award and the Miller-Johnson Equal Justice Award -- all of which place an emphasis on service to the community.


Community Service

The Community Service Committeeis a student group that coordinates community service projects and events at the law school and in the community throughout the academic year, including the orientation community service event.


Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Laura Riley
Director of Experiential Learning
213 821-4705


Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Although the Law School does not award a separate certificate, the Law School's academic counseling manual, which provides advice on curricular emphases, course choices, and recommended chronology for course sequencing, includes a "public interest" section.


Public Interest Centers

Office of Public Service - The Law School's Office of Public Service expands opportunities for pro bono legal work, clinical and judicial externships and service-learning programs. While USC Law has boasted public interest programs for decades - its first clinical program was established in 1929 and the USC Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) was one of the earliest such organizations in the country founded in 1987 - the recently launched office will centralize and strengthen programs and provide improved assistance to students who are interested in public service opportunities.

Public Interest Clinics

USC's clinical training programs are designed to develop lawyering skills of the highest quality. USC Law offers two types of clinical training: classroom courses that include simulated exercises, and supervised casework with actual clients. Through classroom exercises, students use hypothetical case materials in simulated law office and courtroom settings, with actors playing the roles of clients and witnesses. Then, students learn legal skills and principles by working on actual cases for real clients under the supervision of faculty member. The following clinical programs combine classroom exercises with client representation.

  • Employer Legal Advice Clinic
    The clinic offers non-profit corporations employment law counseling ranging from evaluating the legality of employee random drug testing to designing supervisor training programs on sexual harassment.
  • Immigration Clinic
    The clinic provides pro bono representation to clients in a variety of immigration cases including asylum, applications for relief under the Violence Against Women Act, and other applications for relief from removal.
  • Post-Conviction Justice Project
    The clinic represents California federal and state inmates in post-conviction issues ranging from parole board hearings to petitions for writ of habeas corpus.
  • Small Business Clinic
    The Small Business Clinic provides basic corporate legal assistance to entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profit organizations, ranging from entity selection and formation to contract drafting.



The Office of Public Service is responsible for the coordination and administration of the Judicial and Clinical Externship programs. Students can receive academic credit for clinical externships by working for a non-profit public interest office or government agency. Students also receive academic credit through an externship with a judge.

These placements provide a wide variety of opportunities for students to have direct experience with clients and legal problems in attorney-supervised settings as part of their second and third year curriculum. Externships are designed to be different from paid legal work available to law students because of the nature of the academic learning and supervision provided; as well as the breadth of assignments and a level of responsibility that are typically not available to paid student clerks. USC's program offers more than 100 public interest nonprofit, government and judicial placements throughout the country as well as internationally.

Some examples of pre-approved field placements include:

  • ACLU Foundation of Southern California
  • Alliance for Children's Rights
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Asian Pacific American Legal Center
  • Bet Tzedek
  • California Attorney General: Civil Law and Public Rights Division, Criminal Division, Environmental Division
  • C alifornia Court of Appeal
  • California Rural Legal Assistance
  • Children's Law Center
  • Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking
  • Community Benefits Law Center
  • District Attorney: Los Angeles County, Ventura County
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • HIV and Aids Legal Service Center
  • Los Angeles City Attorney
  • Los Angeles Superior Court
  • Mental Health Advocacy Services
  • Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • National Immigration Law Center
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Neighborhood Legal Services
  • Public Counsel
  • Public Defender, Federal and County
  • San Francisco Superior Court
  • Screen Actors Guild
  • Supreme Court of California
  • U.S. Attorney: Civil Division, Criminal Division, Tax Division
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court
  • U.S. Department of Justic
  • U.S. District Court
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Wage Justice Center


Classes with a Public Service Component

Family Violence Seminar - Professor Thomas Lyon offers an additional one to two units for students who provide direct services to victims of domestic violence with one of several local legal services nonprofits.

Housing and Tenant/Landlord Law Seminar – Adjunct Professor Tai Glenn offers an additional one to two units for students who provide direct services to victims of slum housing with one of several local legal services nonprofits.


Public Interest Journals

Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice, The Review of Law and Social Justice has as its purpose the exploration of legal issues from a social justice perspective. The Review focuses on an interdisciplinary examination of social legal issues and solicits papers from scholars in a variety of fields. For more information visit


PI Career Support Center

The Career Services Office (CSO) provides workshops, handbooks and extensive information and counseling on public service careers, including summer jobs, fellowships, government jobs, career paths, financing of a public interest career, etc.

Career Resources include:

  • Extensive library of resources, housed in the CSO, containing information on government agencies, public interest organizations, practice specialties, summer and post-graduate fellowships and judicial clerkships.
  • Students receive information regarding upcoming events, deadlines and opportunities through the CSO Alert, a weekly email newsletter.
  • Online resource collection of handbooks, guides and employment listing services accessible 24 hours a day through the USC Law Portal (password protected). Selected resources include:
    • VAULT Online Library of Career Guides
    • Guide to Government Internship and Honors Programs
    • Small & Mid-Sized Law Firm Directory
    • Guide to Public Service Law
    • Guide to Government Jobs In California
    • Guide to State Court Clerkships

CSO also co-sponsors Annual Public Interest Career Fair at USC and Public Interest Career Day & Government Career Information Day with the other southern California law schools.

For more information and resources visit


Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

For a description see:


Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

The Law School's full-time, one-year public interest fellowship is called the Irmas Fellowship and is funded in part by a Law School-created endowment, student fundraising and graduate donations made through the School's Annual Fund.


Graduate Student Funded:

The Irmas Fellowship is a postgraduate fellowship honoring Sydney and Audrey Irmas. The fellowship was created through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Irmas and the Public Interest Law Foundation to assist recent USC Law graduates beginning careers in public interest. For more information visit


Other Funding Sources:

The Clinton-Orfalea Fellowship Program, a partnership with The Orfalea Family Foundation (ORFALEA), The William J. Clinton Foundation (CLINTON FOUNDATION), and University of Southern California (USC), is a one-year post-graduate fellowships will enable recent graduates of USC's Gould School of Law, Marshall School of Business and the School of Policy, Planning and Development to work for one year with the William J. Clinton Foundation, pursuing the organization's global and domestic initiatives. For more information visit


Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:


Graduate Student Funded



Other Funding Sources:



Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Each spring USC Law's Admissions Office awards top admitted applicants our Summer Fellowships, which provide a guaranteed paid position during the summer following the first year of law school. The Fellowship is offered in partnership with law firms, businesses, and public-interest organizations. Fellows spend half the summer at a law firm and half at a business or spend the whole summer at a public-interest organization.

The Law School administers three endowments that produce two summer grants annually: The Adam Scott Memorial Grant, Paul Davis Memorial Award and the Harriet Buhai/Trope & Trope Family Law Summer Fellowship. The Law School also contributes to PILF summer grants.


Graduate Student Funded:

PILF, a student-run public interest organization, awards 25-30 summer grants each year. Students working their first summer in public interest are awarded $5000 (1L's) and students in their second summer receive $6,500. These grants are paid for primarily through donations and fundraising efforts such as the PILF Auction. In 2008, the law firms of Sidley Austin and McDermott Will & Emery each generously donated two named grants. To be eligible for a grant, students must complete a minimum of 25 pro bono hours and participate in fundraising activities.


Other Funding Sources:

PILF, a student-run public interest organization, awards about 25 summer grants each year. Students working their first summer in the public interest are awarded a $4500 grant and students in their second summer receive a $5,500 grant. Funding comes from a Law School-created endowment, student fundraising, and graduate donations made through our Annual Fund drive.

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Crime, Punishment & Rehabilitation - The Politics and Policy of California Prisons - Steve Cooley, current Los Angeles County District Attorney; Pat Nolan, Prison Fellowship, Vice President; and Jody Armour, USC Law Professor discussed criminal justice reform, rehabilitation and policy of California Prisons.

Supreme Court Preview - Three Constitutional law experts discussed a handful of the most important cases the U.S. Supreme Court will hear during the 2009 Term at a USC Law event. Theodore B. Olson, former U.S. Solicitor General; Pamela Karlan, Stanford Law professor; and Rebecca Brown, USC Law professor, examined several high-profile cases involving criminal law, juvenile sentencing and First Amendment rights. Freedom of religion, animal cruelty and gun ownership were also addressed.

Volunteer training for 2008 election - Election Protection, a national non-partisan coalition, trained volunteer election monitors at USC Law School.

Street Law sponsored Mentor Day - USC Law students interacted with local high school students and speak spoke about experiences in college and law school.

Beach Beautification Community Service Project - USC Law students participated in a school wide community service project at Venice Beach.

Career Services Public Interest Careers Workshop Series - Series included workshops on public service interviewing, public service resumes, applying for fellowships, etc. A public interest career fair also was held each semester.

Annual Public Interest Career Fair - Dozens of public interest agencies participated in career fair.

Annual SBA-Student Organization Open House - The Designed to expose newcomers to a variety of student groups within the Law School. Representatives from organizations ranging from Environmental Law Society to the Public Interest Law Foundation were on hand to answer questions and recruit new student members.

Students invited to Public Counsel open house - Law students at all levels were invited to visit the Public Counsel Law Center. They learned about volunteering as an intern or extern, to offer legal services to some of L.A.'s most needy residents. They had an opportunity to meet staff members and learn about the critical legal services offered by all six law projects: Child Care Law, Children's Rights, Consumer Law, Community Development, Homelessness Prevention, and Immigrants' Rights Projects.

Annual spring faculty panel series - Professors recalled how they picked their area of expertise - a helpful event for students exploring their own legal paths.

16th Annual PILF Auction - The Public Interest Law Foundation's annual auction attracted hundreds of people and raised more than $31,000 for the organization's summer grants and scholarships.

Teen Court – Latin Law Students Association welcomed 30 teen jurors from Manual Arts High School for Teen Court - a juvenile diversion program for first-time juvenile offenders. The event marked the third Teen Court to be held at USC since La Raza first became involved with the program.

2009 Pro Bono Awards Luncheon - More than 50 students were recognized at the 2009 Pro Bono Awards Luncheon.

Legal Aid Alternative Break – More than 60 students participated in a pro bono project with California Rural Legal Assistance during winter break and assisted the rebuilding efforts of government and nonprofit agencies in New Orleans during spring break.

USC Legal Ambassadors Program – Members of the Black Law Student Association and Latino Law Student Association teach law through critical thinking of current events to students at Foshay Learning Center.


Student Public Interest Groups

American Constitution Society

Community Service Affairs Committee

Diversity Affairs Committee

Federalists Society

Latin Law Students Association

Legal Aid Alternative Break

USC Black Law Student Association

USC Asian-Pacific American Law Student Association

USC Gay and Lesbian Law Union

USC Public Interest Law Foundation

USC Street Law