Believing that practical experience is essential, in 1928, USC became one of the country’s first law schools to establish a public interest clinic. Over time, the clinic evolved into the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, one of the state’s largest providers of free legal services. It is a place where USC Gould students continue to contribute their time and talents to serve the public.
Today, USC Gould puts students to work in diverse communities through clinics and practicums in the following areas: post-conviction justice, international human rights, employment law, business law, intellectual property, immigration, mediation, access to justice, children’s legal issues and medical-legal concerns. The school also offers a Public Interest Law certificate.
In addition, USC Gould offers the following opportunities for public service and pro-bono advocacy:
- The Office of Public Interest supports all student-driven public service projects and coordinates public service externships. Approximately 100 students earn academic credit and develop their advocacy skills while working for public interest organizations, government agencies and judges.
- USC Gould's Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) is dedicated to developing a service ethic among law students and to facilitating careers in public interest. Through PILF clinics and summer grants, students have obtained legal relief for the homeless, abused children, low-income working families and other vulnerable populations. PILF began more than 20 years ago with three student board members, eight summer grants and three pro bono clinics. It is one of the oldest and most active public interest student groups in the nation, with 16 board members, 25 grants and 30 clinics. The annual PILF auction — which in recent years has raised as much as $50,000 in one night through ticket sales, auction bids and cash donations — has become a hallmark event at USC Gould. Law firms, such as Sidley Austin and McDermott Will & Emery have sponsored summer grants through PILF.
- Legal Aid Alternative Breaks (LAAB) offers students the chance to get involved in short-term public service projects. For example, LAAB has sponsored spring break trips to aid hurricane-ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast. Students provided crucial legal services to residents working to rebuild their lives. LAAB continues to sponsor trips to other communities in need during both spring and winter breaks.
- The Sydney and Audrey Irmas Charitable Foundation provides generous support to students and alumni. In 1990, Sydney Irmas ’55 and his wife, Audrey, established the USC Gould Public Interest Endowment, which funds the prestigious yearlong postgraduate Irmas Fellowship for alumni working at public interest agencies.
- In 1987, USC Gould established the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) with subsidies to repay student loans for graduates pursuing careers in public service. In addition, LRAP oversees a grant program that provides compensation for students to work for public interest law agencies, which generally do not have the financial resources to compensate their interns.