Public Interest Litigation
Public interest lawyers provide legal assistance in many areas of civil law, such as domestic relations (family law), health care, landlord-tenant law or consumer protection. A litigator can help a tenant in housing court fight an eviction or represent the elderly in health care litigation. Litigators also work for nonprofit organizations with a specific mission, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or the Natural Resources Defense Council. This kind of lawyer works with non-lawyers (scientists or activists, for example) to achieve the goals of the organization. Many of these litigators handle class action suits, especially when there are too many injured parties for each to file separate actions. Class action suits take place in different legal areas, including product liability or employment discrimination, and the goal of many class actions is to enact broad social reform as well as to achieve results for individual plaintiffs.
The life of a public interest attorney is not easy, and there is a lot of turnover among the ranks. Funding for these positions often relies on membership dues, gifts from individuals and private grants, and salaries are likely to be low. The obstacles to achieving change may be very great and the red tape can literally tie your hands. Nevertheless, public interest jobs can be exciting and highly rewarding. There's nothing like being thrown into the trenches in your first year of practice to build your confidence as a litigator. And those impassioned about social reform will find few better avenues for job satisfaction than working directly to change the law. Even if you don't remain a public interest litigator for long, the experience you will have gained will be invaluable.