Public Service Portal
The University of Denver’s mission is to be a great private university dedicated to the public good. Here at Denver Law, we strive to fulfill that mission and instill in each and every one of our students the value of service and pro bono work. Through our diverse curriculum, experiential learning opportunities, student organizations, and more, we establish a community of students, scholars, and staff who support and encourage public service. Whether you envision a lifelong career in the public sector or anticipate taking on pro bono cases, there is a home for you at Denver Law.
Explore our portal to learn more about the “The Public Interest Law Center of the Rockies” and become a part of our community.
Email us or stop by Suite 365 to learn more about public service at Denver Law.
What is Public Interest Law?
The best definition we have found of ‘public interest law’ is Equal Justice Works’ definition: “the use of law by nonprofit organizations, law firms and government agencies to provide legal representation to people, groups, or interests that are historically underrepresented in the legal system. Areas of public interest law include, but are not limited to, civil rights and liberties, women’s rights, children and youth services, immigrant issues, worker rights employment law, consumer rights, public benefits, gay and lesbian rights, environmental law, prisoner rights, criminal law, and the death penalty.”
Denver Law offers an array of classroom courses focused on specific topics within the world of public interest law. Whether you want to work for a governmental agency, see yourself working at legal aid or another nonprofit organization, or envision a career in the courtroom as a prosecutor or public defender, there is a class for you. Regardless of which courses you choose, interactive environments are a part of our culture. Below is a sampling of courses that may be of interest to students focused on the public sector.
- Human Rights Law
- Social Change Lawyering
- The Prosecutor as Protagonist
- Street Law
- Holocaust Seminar
- Civil Rights Seminar: Animal Rights
- Global Climate Change Law and Policy
- Latinos, Latinas, and the Law
- Election Law
- Comparative Constitutional Human Rights Seminar
- Labor Law
- Multiculturalism, Race, and the Law
- Poverty and Low Wage Work in America
- Environmental Ethics and Justice
- Sexual Orientation and the Law
- Death Penalty Jurisprudence
- Prosecuting Genocide, War Crimes, and Crimes Against Humanity at the International Tribunals
- Equality, Competition, and Discrimination in the Legal Profession
- Law and Special Education
- Federal Indian Law
- Employment Discrimination Law
- Extremism and the Law
- Urban Environmental Law
- Legal Spanish for US Lawyers
In addition to these courses, our experiential opportunities include a strong classroom component.
Public Good Distinction
The Public Good Distinction is an honor that Denver Law awards graduating students based on their demonstrated commitment to public interest law throughout their legal education. The Distinction was developed by a group of Denver Law students but is administered by faculty and staff.
The world of Public Interest lawyering is vast, encompassing a variety of substantive areas, topics, and skillsets. The Distinction is an opportunity for students to chart their own path, develop their own narrative, and gain a robust understanding of impacting the public good as a lawyer.
- Dec. '23 / May '24 Grads Information
- Public Good Distinction Information Sheet
- Course Submission Form
- Non-Exhaustive List of Public Good Courses
To earn the Distinction, students must:
- Complete 16 credits of public good courses (4 experiential)
- Enroll and participate in the 0-Credit Public Interest Capstone during their graduating year
- Complete a culminating reflection essay during the Capstone
Students are encouraged to:
- Participate in academic advising
- Participate in legal and non-legal volunteer/public service activities
There is no minimum GPA required, but students must be in good standing to earn the distinction.
For more information, contact Alexi Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Considering a career in public service, but worried about being able to financially support yourself? Anxious about loans and endless debt? Need money during the summer but aren’t interested in the private sector? These questions and more weigh on the minds of prospective and current students interested in the public sector. Here at Denver Law, we understand those concerns and offer targeted programs to help you live out your dreams with the financial support you need.
Click here for summer 2024 funding opportunities for public sector work. Each year, Denver Law is delighted to award dozens of stipends to students working in unpaid nonprofit and governmental work. This support is combined with the stipends that the Public Interest Law Group, a student organization, has awarded to students for over 20 years. Our goal for the Denver Law Summer Stipend Fund is to make it easier for students to pursue opportunities in the public interest – and, accordingly, to benefit from the distinctive professional satisfaction that such opportunities provide. In addition to this general public interest summer funding, each summer, Denver Law students are eligible for other DU specific funding options and can apply to national funding sources. Refer to the 2024 Summer Funding Sheet for more specific information and contact Professor Alexi Freeman, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Director of Externships and Social Justice Initiatives, at email@example.com to discuss and/or public sector career advisors at firstname.lastname@example.org to prepare applications.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program & Other Loan Repayment Programs
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program allows students who are employed full time in the public sector to get the remaining balance of their federal Direct Loans forgiven after a certain amount of time. Other programs support prosecutors and public defenders, public servants in certain states, and employees within the government sector.
Contact the Director of Student Financial Management, Roger Lane, to learn more about financing your public interest career.
Public Sector Careers
Graduates from Denver Law pursue a wide range of public service activities. Recent graduates have secured employment at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the Colorado State Public Defender, the NYC Administration for Children’s Servicesthe Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the Empire Justice Center, multiple judicial districts in the Colorado District Attorney’s offices, Montana Legal Services, the Humane Society, and the Colorado Civil Rights Division, among many other public service opportunities.
Did you know almost half of Denver Law grads obtain jobs in the public sector? This includes students working in public interest or government jobs, judicial clerkships, and academia. Denver Law’s ABA required employment disclosures can be found here.
Have you always imagined yourself as the prosecutor in Law & Order? Do you want to visit the Capitol and lobby for equal rights? Envision a career in international human rights? All of these possibilities and more are available in public sector careers, and we here at Denver Law want to help you explore those options. Through the Office of Career Development, we assist with cover letters and resumes, help you find jobs and volunteer opportunities, bring in public sector practitioners to share advice, sponsor an Annual Public Interest & Government Career Fair, and more. We want to help your dreams become a reality. Check out this manual to assist with public sector applications and interviews.
Legal fellowships are generally short-term opportunities (no more than 2 years) that allow recent law graduates to pursue their interest in public sector work. Fellowships are often meant to fulfill a specified purpose or project, and are a great way to “get in the door” and gain experience. There are organization- and project-based fellowships at nonprofits, law firm sponsored fellowships, and fellowships with government entities (e.g. honors programs). Visit the Public Sector Careers section below to learn more about the Denver Law sponsored fellowships (which includes fellowships with the Denver City Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office). Contact Prof. Alexi Freeman, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, and director of externships and social justice initiatives, at email@example.com to discuss. Check out the Public Interest Fellowships Resource Sheet for more information on fellowships.
Denver Legal Community
The city of Denver boasts a vibrant legal community. For students interested in the public sector, we host a wealth of nonprofit organizations; local, state, and federal government agencies; and public interest law firms.
For current students and alum, our Office of Career Development database and Legal Externship Program database are filled with organizations and firms interested in working with, and getting to know, our students, and they are constantly updated.
Denver Law has a long-standing commitment to making students “practice ready.” We offer a number of nationally recognized programs to prepare our students. Our Clinical Program offers 6 different opportunities for students to work closely with faculty and represent clients together. Our Legal Externship Program, with over 600 placements available to students, is one of the largest of its kind in the country. Both offer countless opportunities to gain experience working on real cases for real clients. From advocating for prisoners’ rights in the clinic to working for the IRS or the ACLU as part of an externship, students gain critical insights into the work of a lawyer in the public sector.
Our Lawyering Process Program for 1Ls, Center for Advocacy, and simulation and Capstone courses also provide students with the ability to hone much-needed skills. And now, through practical training opportunities, students can opt to spend at least a third of their three-year law school career exploring these experiential options.
With all of these opportunities, Denver Law students graduate ready to practice in the public sector.
Public Service Requirement
Public Service Requirement
Every JD student is required to perform a minimum of 50 hours of supervised, uncompensated, law-related public service work during their law school career as a prerequisite to graduation. The public service requirement:
- Educates students about their professional responsibilities, particularly their obligation to perform public service work as practicing attorneys;
- Helps students develop practical lawyering skills by supervising them in real work situations and teaching them to integrate the theory and practice of law; and
- Raises awareness among students of meaningful career and public service opportunities.
You can satisfy the requirement in one of the following ways:
- Registering for, and passing, an externship for credit at a government agency, judicial chambers, or nonprofit organization via the Legal Externship Office, as long as no financial compensation of any kind whether from the employer or outside source was received for the externship.
- Registering for, and receiving a grade of C or better, in a clinic.
- Registering for, and receiving a grade of C or better, in an eligible course. Eligible courses currently include: Homeless Advocacy Seminar, International Criminal Law Practicum, Live Client Lab, Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic Mediation Practicum, Poverty and Low Wage Work in America, Public Interest Lawyering Lab, Trial Practice III: Instructor’s Practicum, Trial Practice III: Mentor’s Practicum, Wills Lab, the Workplace Rights Project Lab, the Youth Rights Workshop, and the Animal Activist Legal Defense Fund.
- Volunteering and engaging in 50 hours of uncompensated legal work under the supervision of a lawyer who has been licensed to practice law for at least three years, at a government agency, judicial chambers, nonprofit organization, or private firm, as long as the work at the firm is pro bono. This is known as a Volunteer Legal Experience. For a non-exhaustive list of opportunities that can count as a Volunteer Legal Experience (not in the externship database), visit the List of Volunteer Legal Experience/Public Good Opportunities.
If you have a particular project or opportunity that you would like to do, or if you are struggling to find an opportunity, please contact Alexi Freeman, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Director of Externships & Social Justice Initiatives, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 303-871-6788. We are more than happy to meet with you to help you find a suitable and enjoyable placement!
PSR Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Public Service Requirement and what are the goals of the requirement?
To ensure that the College of Law remains in the forefront of public service, every Juris Doctor student is required to perform a minimum of 50 hours of supervised, uncompensated, law-related public service work during their law school career as a prerequisite to graduation.
Goals of the PSR:
- Educate the students about their professional responsibilities, particularly their obligation to perform public service work as practicing attorneys;
- Help students develop practical lawyering skills by supervising them in real work situations and teaching them to integrate the theory and practice of law;
- Raise awareness among students of meaningful career and public service opportunities.
What are the options to satisfy the Public Service Requirement?
See Public Service Requirement menu above.
When can a student satisfy the Public Service Requirement?
Students must satisfy the requirement prior to graduation. When you can satisfy it, depends on how you satisfy it. If you are satisfying via a relevant class, clinic or externship, the students will be the summer after your 1L year. If you are satisfying via Volunteer Legal Experience, it can be done during your 1L year. See this document for more info.
What must a student who intends to satisfy the Public Service Requirement do?
Decide how you wish to complete the requirement – i.e. through a Student Law Office Clinic, Legal Externship, Volunteer Legal Experience, or Pre-Approved Law School Course. Please review the Public Service Requirement menu above for a complete list of approved ways to satisfy the PSR.
- For every option but a Volunteer Legal Experience, at the end of each semester, after grades have been submitted, the Public Interest Coordinator will confirm names of students who have passed the qualifying courses and programs. The Coordinator will then update the public interest database and Banner to reflect fulfillment of the PSR. Students who would like to confirm that their PSR satisfaction has been marked in Banner should check their Academic Progress Report; PSR satisfaction will not appear on a student’s academic transcript.
- If you are satisfying through a Volunteer Legal Experience, you must follow these steps. Note: you no longer have to register prior to completing the work. Instead, both the Supervisor Certification and Evaluation Form, and the Student Certification and Evaluation Form must be in by the last day of classes on the semester you will graduate. We recommend not waiting that late!
When will my Public Service Requirement show up as complete?
The Public Interest Coordinator marks PSR completion in Banner approximately three times a year, after grades have been received each semester. A grade must be available for the specific course or program the student has completed in order for the Public Service Requirement to be reported.
Do I need to register for the Volunteer Legal Experience?
No, this is no longer required. Please follow the steps outlined in this document.
Can I satisfy the Public Service Requirement through a paid internship if I do fifty (50) hours of unpaid work?
Possibly, but please speak with the Public Interest Coordinator or the Director of Social Justice Initiatives to ensure that the work you are doing qualifies for the PSR, and to discuss how best to distinguish the unpaid work from your compensated duties.
I am doing unpaid work for a private firm. If I am working pro bono, will that satisfy the Public Service Requirement?
Just because you are unpaid does not mean that the work is pro bono. While you can satisfy the Public Service Requirement by volunteering at a private law firm, you must do at least fifty (50) hours of uncompensated work that the firm has undertaken on a pro bono basis. Contact email@example.com with questions about whether a particular project constitutes pro bono work.
What if I am receiving credit for my Legal Externship? Does that still satisfy the requirement?
Many externships with the Legal Externship Office satisfy the Public Service Requirement. You may satisfy the Public Service Requirement with a qualifying externship for which you received credit; however, no financial compensation of any kind whether from the employer or outside source can be received for the externship. This means paid externships are not eligible.
What is the difference between a Legal Externship and Volunteer Legal Experience?
Legal Externships are for-credit fieldwork under the supervision of an attorney licensed for at least five years that is overseen by the Legal Externship Office. Students must register for at least two credits (a minimum of 100 hours). Successful completion of an unpaid Legal Externship with a government, judicial, and non-profit entity, or private firm, provided 50 hours at the firm are pro bono, will satisfy your Public Service Requirement. Paid externships are ineligible.
A Volunteer Legal Experience is for zero credits. This is beneficial for students who are not planning to satisfy the Public Service Requirement through other available opportunities and just want to do 50 hours of work.
The primary differences between the two programs are that the Volunteer Legal Experience is not for credit, the commitment is shorter, and there is a more flexible period for completion (you can do it at any point in a semester and can overlap up to two semesters).
Can you find a way for me to satisfy the PSR?
It is the student’s job to find their own way to satisfy the PSR. However, the Director of Externships & Social Justice Initiatives works to develop and advertise opportunities to the student body, and is also always willing to meet with you to discuss your options. You can find potential placements via the Legal Externship Database.
What if I can’t complete 50 hours of volunteer work?
All students must complete 50 hours of law-related, supervised, uncompensated public service work in order to graduate from Denver Law. There are many ways to do this as described here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Can I do unpaid work for more than one qualifying organization in satisfaction of the PSR?
Yes, you can, but we usually recommend limiting to two placements maximum. If you are considering this approach, please contact email@example.com.
What if did work for an appropriate organization a few months ago? Can I count those hours towards the requirement?
Yes. If you are satisfying the PSR through a Volunteer Legal Experience, you no longer need to register. Both the Supervisor Certification and Evaluation Form, and the Student Certification and Evaluation Form must be in by the last day of classes on the semester you will graduate. We recommend not waiting that late!
If you have additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PSR Information for Supervisors
Thank you so much for your interest in supervising Denver Law students to satisfy their Public Service Requirement via a Volunteer Legal Experience. A Volunteer Legal Experience allows students to engage in fifty hours of law related public service projects under the supervision of attorneys who have been licensed to practice law for at least three years.
- Students may work for a non-profit organization, government agency, a judge, or in a private law firm, provided the law firm work is only pro bono.
- Students can do a Volunteer Legal Experience at any point. It is not tied to the semester schedule; students may become involved throughout each semester and can even straddle up to two semesters if necessary.
- This is a useful opportunity for attorneys to get student assistance on discrete research or writing projects, given the shorter hours, although the work is by no means limited to such projects.
- If you are interested in working with a student for more than 50 hours, check out our Legal Externship Program. Legal Externships are semester-long placements wherein students work between 100 to 300 hours.
If you have a particular project or externship opportunity that you would like to promote to the students at Denver Law, please contact Alexi Freeman, Director of Externships & Social Justice Initiatives, at email@example.com or by phone at 303-871-6788.
Public Service Initiatives
1L Public Good Program
The Public Good Program launched by Profs. John Bliss and Alexi Freeman is one of the few programs in the country that aims to support first-year students who aspire to pursue careers in the public interest. Over the course of the 1L year, the selected participants in the program will commit to attending several lunchtime workshops and completing approximately 10-20 hours of pro bono service throughout the academic year (concentrated in the second semester). The workshops will address professional identity, values, and other career considerations for navigating a public interest path at Denver Law and beyond. Contact Dean Freeman and Prof. Bliss to learn more, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Colorado Civil Justice Corps
If you are graduating in May and are interested in pursuing nonprofit lawyering in Colorado post grad, please consider applying to the Colorado Civil Justice Corps, a unique, paid post graduate fellowship opportunity only available to Denver Law students! The CCJC fellowship allows 3L students to apply to work for 16 months after graduation (beginning in September 2023) at a designated nonprofit agency. Fellows will provide civil legal services to people who have been victims/survivors of crime.
Our nonprofit host sites, locations, and fellowship opportunities are now confirmed and are as follows:
- Bright Future Foundation (Avon) – Serving the only agency providing pro-bono legal services in Eagle County, the family law fellow will be involved in all aspects of legal advocacy, consultation, and representation for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking.
- Bringing Justice Home/Crossroads Safehouse (Fort Collins) – The family law fellow will provide representation to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking as well as remote, unbundled legal services.
- The Center for Trauma & Resilience (Denver) – The immigration law fellow will support the MiGente: VAWA Legal Solutions Clinic, which provides immigration and family law services to undocumented victims of crime, and will focus on immigration, divorce and custody cases.
- Colorado Legal Services (Colorado Springs) – Serving El Paso, Teller, and Fremont counties, the family law fellow will be based in the Colorado Springs CLS office and focus on civil protection orders, custody and divorce actions, and civil protection orders.
- Justice & Mercy Legal Aid Center (Denver) – The family law fellow will provide full representation in family law matters, including filing petitions and other pleadings, attending hearings, mediation, and settlement conferences.
- Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (Westminster) – Serving the RMIAN Children’s Program, the only one of its kind in the state, the immigration law fellow will provide legal services to child survivors of sex and labor trafficking, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and children feeling persecution in their home countries.
The Pledge for the Public Good is a student-led initiative that encourages faculty to make explicit connections between the law and the public good within the classroom, stoking the passions that many students bring to law school. Recognizing the law school’s strong emphasis on cultivating students’ professional identities and the university’s mission to be a great private university dedicated to the public good, we believe it is necessary to understand the moral implications of our future roles as legal advocates within all areas of the law, and especially within the framework of traditional 1L courses.
Specifically, The Pledge for the Public Good asks faculty to make these connections by agreeing to do one of the following:
1) A lecture dedicated to a topic related to the public good,
2) Making explicit case connections,
3) Hosting a guest speaker to discuss public interest law or pro bono in practice,
or implementing their own method to incorporate the pledge.
In its first year of implementation, the 2015-2016 school year, over sixty Professors signed on in support of the Pledge and have begun implementing it in their classrooms.
The Pledge is a result of a year-long collaborative effort led by the Chancellor’s Scholars with support from over twenty student organizations. If you are interested in getting involved or learning more, contact the Pledge for the Public Good team at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the pledge, check out the article written by Professor Alexi Freeman and Katie Steefel at 22 Wash & Lee J. Civil Rts. & Soc. Just. 49.
Students at Denver Law make our community thrive. There are over 50 student organizations, and we are fortunate to have an enthusiastic group of students and organizations committed to public service:
Alternative Spring Break gives law students the opportunity to travel and participate in meaningful legal service in March, such as with Native American communities in Window Rock, AZ.
The Chancellor’s Scholar Program is offered to students with a demonstrated history of excellence in scholarship and public service.
Public Interest Law Group
The Public Interest Law Group encourages law students to devote their careers to the struggle for social justice, exposes students to the broad range of work being done to advance progressive legal goals, provides a forum for discussion and an information base, and inspires students to follow their hearts. Through the money they raise in their annual auction, PILG also offers summer stipends for students working at nonprofits.
Denver Law encourages all students to contribute to the public good and lend their growing legal skills and non-legal support to communities and people in need, and for issues they care about.
For a non-exhaustive list of opportunities that satisfy the public service requirement but may or may not be eligible for externship credit given the nature of the work, visit the List of Volunteer Legal Experience/Public Good Opportunities.
As always, students can use the externship database to search for an incredible list of law related opportunities at nonprofits and governmental entities, whether or not students choose to work for credit or use an opportunity to satisfy our Public Service Requirement.
We are committed to helping law students give back while they are in school and develop into attorneys who believe in pro bono and use both their time and expertise to support others. Contact email@example.com to ask questions, to share opportunities, or to get more information.