Most of the student organizations at Carolina Law have a public service component to their activities and some focus purely on public interest areas. Specifically dedicated to public interest law, the Carolina Public Interest Law Organization (CPILO) raises money each year for summer public interest grants through its annual auction.
Pro Bono Program
Through the school’s extracurricular Pro Bono Program, law students work with supervising attorneys who provide pro bono services or legal representation free of charge. Students gain experience with real cases and help the community at the same time. Many students also participate in pro bono service during fall, winter, and spring breaks, either individually or on group trips coordinated by the Pro Bono Program.
In clinics, students earn academic credit while developing competency in lawyering skills including interviewing, counseling, fact-gathering, creating a litigation plan, and negotiating. The clinics serve indigent clients or nonprofit organizations that might not otherwise have legal representation.
In externships, students earn academic credit while working on real-world, ongoing legal matters under close supervision in a public or non-profit setting. Externships are carefully selected by the faculty, and most placements are in state or government offices, nonprofit agencies, or judicial chambers.
There are plenty of opportunities outside law school to volunteer in the local community. Students volunteer for such agencies as the Orange County Dispute Settlement Center, the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, Compass Center for Women and Families, and Inter-Faith Council. While some students provide volunteer legal services for these agencies, others simply do whatever is needed, such as distributing meals at the homeless shelter or functioning as a hotline counselor. The benefit of doing volunteer work, even that which is not legal in nature, is that you will be reminded daily of the value of community service. Also, you will inevitably make important contacts in the community and help demonstrate your commitment to the public interest sector.
Each year, the school awards summer grants to students who are taking unpaid summer public interest and public sector jobs. Grant recipients work in nonprofit organizations, legal aid offices, state and federal government agencies, public defender offices, and district attorneys’ offices.
Carolina Public Interest Law Organization’s Peer Mentor Program
The CPILO Peer Mentor Program pairs incoming 1Ls who are interested in public interest law with upper-class students who are pursuing a public interest career. The upper-class mentors meet with 1L mentee(s) on an individual basis throughout the year to provide a peer support system, as well as information that students need early on in their law school careers to be successful in the public interest sector. The program also schedules a variety of group social activities each year, including the Annual Chili Dinner, brown bag lunches, a spring ice cream social and award ceremony and other events.
Public Interest Job Search Group (3L)
The CDO organizes a job search group for 3L students pursuing full-time employment in the public interest and/or government sector. Participants benefit from peer-to-peer support, direct career counselor contact, and methods for taking an active and structured approach to the job search process.
Public Interest Job Search Tips
The CDO has compiled specific insights and suggestions for students regarding the public interest job and internship search. These are available with student credentials via My Carolina Law.