You are passionate about social justice issues. When you hear a story about discrimination and inequality, you want to do something about it. You are also passionate about law and believe it is a great career for fighting towards equality for everyone. How do you become a lawyer who focuses on social justice? Here are the essential steps to get you where you want to go:
Research law schools known for their social justice emphasis
Choose a law school and university that makes social justice a priority. When applying for law school, research ones that are well-known for their passion on issues you care about. These schools will have more classes and opportunities for students wanting to make social justice law their main profession. Look at current social justice lawyers and investigate where they went to school. If you can, reach out to them and ask them about their school experience.
Take classes on social justice issues
When you’re in law school, seek out the classes that encompass social justice issues, like gender discrimination in the workplace, rights of LGBT parents, and so on. Many universities now have social justice programs and clinics that tackle big issues of the day like police violence and sexual harassment. If you are still applying to law schools, do a little research on the opportunities different schools have. For those already in law school, take in as much coursework and experience as you can in areas that interest you. Find out about summer social justice work, internships, and fellowships, as well. These will give you more hands-on experience. You may also want to take a free online course in social justice to gain further insights and deepen your knowledge.
- Free course: Feminism and Social Justice (University of California SC)
- Free course: Diversity and Social Justice (University of Michigan)
- Free course: Love as a Force of Social Justice (Stanford University)
Finding a job after law school can be a daunting task. The importance of networking can’t be overstated. Go to any meeting, volunteer opportunity, or event where organizations that focus on social justice can be found, before and after you graduate. Connect with lawyers currently working in social justice and talk to them about their experiences. This road may be new to you, but others have walked it before you. Take advantage of their knowledge to learn all you can about the world of social justice law.
You may not currently be working in social justice, but you want to get more involved or transition completely into social justice law. How do you start? There are lots of organizations who need volunteers and pro bono lawyers to help with cases. You gain valuable experience and get to use your skills helping those who need you. Social justice lawyers don’t go into the field for the money, so nurturing a willingness to serve is a great way to get involved. You’ll also meet lots of people and connect with organizations who might be hiring full-time down the road.
You may find a job as a social justice lawyer in an organization you wouldn’t expect. Social justice issues are very broad and even if a non-profit or another org isn’t exclusively dedicated to law, they may still need lawyers on staff. When searching for opportunities, cast a wide net and be flexible about the kinds of jobs you consider. It’s always better to be more open-minded than not, especially as the field of social justice law becomes more developed and its importance is recognized.