Social Justice

The Center for Social Justice coordinates curricular offerings in the field of public interest and civil rights, promotes scholarship in the area of underrepresented groups, and sponsors workshops and conferences on issues of equality and access.

Berkeley Law offers many opportunities for students planning a course of study or a career that concentrates on issues of social justice for traditionally disadvantaged groups in American society. A variety of specialized classroom courses and clinical programs give students the opportunity to gain in-depth experience in a number of areas of social justice and public interest practice.

Some courses are organized around legal issues that concern specific groups, while other courses are organized around substantive issues relating to the needs of all disadvantaged groups.

Clinical opportunities to represent disadvantaged clients and communities, under the supervision of Berkeley Law lecturers and field supervisors, are available to second- and third-year students for credit through the Clinical Program.

Volunteer opportunities are also plentiful. At the East Bay Community Law Center, students may participate in the Law Student Outreach Project and the Volunteer Lawyer Project, and they may serve on the student steering committee. Students may become active in the student-run clinics for workers’ rights and refugee law. Several student-edited journals at the law school specialize in legal issues of concern to underrepresented groups.

In addition, the Berkeley Law Foundation funds a number of summer jobs and yearlong postgraduate fellowships in the public interest sector.

The Center for Social Justice recommends the following courses and activities for students pursuing a career in social justice. These recommendations are advisory and not meant to discourage students from charting their own path of study.

First-year students are encouraged to:

  • Participate in the Center for Social Justice activities, such as the Social Justice Mondays and Tuesdays speaker series and Social Justice Thursdays speaker series (focusing on first-year subjects).
  • Become involved in one or more social justice student organizations (for instance, the Berkeley Law Foundation).
  • Volunteer for a community-based outreach or education program, such as the East Bay Community Law Center’s Law Student Outreach Project, East Bay Workers’ Rights Clinic, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant Central American Refugee Clinic, or Family Violence Law Center.
  • Pursue a social justice summer job (contact the Office of Career Services for opportunities, including fellowship support).

Second-year students are encouraged to: 

  • Take two social justice introductory courses, which can be taken concurrently and which provide an important foundation to social justice issues. These introductory courses include a theory course, Law and Social Justice, and a skills course, Social Justice: Skills and Practice Issues. When taken in the second year, these courses provide an opportunity to build a community of students in the social justice curriculum who work together during their second and third years.
  • Experience social justice lawyering firsthand while engaging in rigorous study and critical reflection on what it means to act in the lawyer role. To this end, students can participate in a closely supervised, direct-client clinic in conjunction with a required seminar. Opportunities include: in-house clinics (the Death Penalty Clinic, the International Human Rights Law Clinic, or the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic); a community-based clinic (the East Bay Community Law Center); or faculty-supervised field placement (the Domestic Violence Law Clinic).

Second- and third-year students can take many courses relevant to social justice work. The center recommends that students:

  • Complete a constitutional law course.
  • Consider taking other important courses, such as Administrative Law, Advanced Legal Research, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Federal Courts, and Income Tax.
  • Complete two or more social justice courses, at least one of which is identity-related (such as race, gender, disability, and sexual orientation). Sample courses include: Bilingualism, Children and the Law, Constitutional and Civil Rights of Immigrants: Current Issues, Contemporary Readings in Law and Society, Critical Race Theory, Disability Rights, Domestic Violence Law Clinic, Education Law and Policy for the 21st Century, Employment Discrimination Law, Family Law, Gender and the Law, Healthcare Law, Federal Indian Law, International Human Rights Law Clinic, Labor Law, Law of Nonprofit Organizations, Race and American Law, Refugee Law, Sex Discrimination and the Law, Sexual Harassment Law, Sexual Orientation and the Law, and Tribal Legal Systems.

Third-year students are encouraged to engage in an advanced social justice project that builds upon the substantive knowledge and practical experience they have acquired during their first and second years. The project allows for more in-depth study of a specific social justice issue, and provides an opportunity to work closely with a social justice faculty member. Examples of such advanced work include:

  • A social justice workshop, policy project, or research project.
  • Advanced research and writing for a seminar in a substantive social justice field.
  • An advanced project as a returning student in an in-house or a community-based clinic.
  • An individual policy or writing project under the supervision of a social justice faculty member.

Depending on their particular interests, students may also wish to:

  • Participate in law journal work related to social justice.
  • Complete a social justice field placement.
  • Complete additional skills course(s), such as Appellate Advocacy, Evidence Advocacy, Mediation, Negotiations: Theory and Practice, Trial Practice: Civil, Trial Practice: Criminal, and Trial Preparation and Practice I and II.