A SOCIAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC INTEREST PERSPECTIVE ON THE CURRICULUM FOR LLMs
As an LL.M. student, you will be free to select most of your own courses. We urge you to investigate all the class offerings, keeping in mind your objectives in earning the LL.M., whether it be professional development, bar exam qualification, specializing in a particular field, or immersing yourself in the skills-based offerings Berkeley law provides. Whatever your path might be, we encourage you to engage in the public interest and social justice culture at Berkeley Law. You can do this through your coursework and/or outside the classroom.
Berkeley Law’s experiential education offerings are diverse, exciting, and growing all the time. These ‘hands-on’ learning experiences include pro bono initiatives, field placements, practicums, and more. We can’t emphasize how terrific it is to leave the LL.M. program with some U.S. on-the-ground lawyering under your belt, and so we encourage you to consider these opportunities.
In addition, we recommend that you consider opportunities to connect and learn outside the classroom:
- Volunteer with Student- Initiated Legal Services Projects (SLPS)
- Participate in Social Justice at Berkeley Law programs and other activities offered by the Henderson Center
- Take advantage of the law school’s research centers’ offerings
- Participate in student organizations, such as identity and interest groups, the Social Justice Student Network, or law journals
Each of the above opportunities will not only expose you to the Berkeley Law social justice and public interest culture that is so central to the law school, but it will also allow you to connect with faculty, staff, J.D. and fellow LL.M. students.
One last bit of wisdom: engaging in social justice and public interest courses and extra-curricular offerings is part of the Berkeley Law experience. You do not need to intend to build a career in social justice to engage with the community while a student at Berkeley law. You will come to see that there are public interest and social justice angles to nearly every legal question and subject. Find what speaks to you as a public interest and social justice advocate no matter what class you are in. Not sure how where to find the social justice relevance of a course? Talk to your fellow students, ask professors, and visit the public interest and social justice centers on campus. We are always happy to help.
SOCIAL JUSTICE and PUBLIC INTEREST. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
As with so many legal questions, the answer is: it depends who you ask! Reasonable people can disagree about whether social justice and public interest are synonyms. But consider this: Our public interest peers work tirelessly for the common good. They strive to protect rights and opportunities that benefit “the public.” They fight for liberties that are accessible to us all no matter how we are situated within society. This is the power of public interest work–it serves everyone. Its perspective is crucial.
Our social justice peers are often up to something a bit different. Social justice promotes rights, power, and opportunity expressly for people who are chronically deprived of these things, whether by structural or individualized sources. It explicitly aims to redress wrongs committed against the least visible and least powerful, and to reform legal, political, and social systems so that they encourage equity. This, too, is crucial work.
To be sure, there is significant and wonderful overlap between “public interest work” and “social justice work,” but it is worth considering the differences, too. Your imagination may be captured by one more than the other, or you may see them as indistinct. Either way–no matter what, precisely, guides your time at Berkeley Law or your career–we welcome you to this community