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Semester Public Interest Program

Select third-year law students spend a semester in Washington, D.C. as public interest externs with nonprofit corporations or federal agencies. The program features exposure to public law in a hands-on setting and expanded public-sector employment opportunities. It builds a valuable bridge in the transition from law student to practicing lawyer.

The core of the program is a semester-long externship in Washington, D.C., coupled with an on-site course on lawyering in the public interest. Students work approximately 400 hours at the externship site during the semester and earn eight hours of credit. The externship also includes some established and regular communication among the student, the supervising faculty member, and the supervisory attorney. Students also write weekly reflective essays.

With the help of the Career Services Office, you will apply for and secure your externship placement before applying for this program.

Professor Sarah Jane Hughes offers a 2 credit course, B539: Lawyering in the Public Interest, in Washington, D.C. The course addresses the realities of law practice in the public sector, and is required for participation in the program.

Coursework may include:

  • Preparing comments on proposed agency rules
  • Filing petitions and Freedom of Information Act requests with agencies
  • Preparing analyses of pending legislation for clients
  • Developing legislative strategies and drafting talking points and proposed amendments to give to members of Congress or their staffs

Sessions with alumni to discuss insights and practice tips with students will also be arranged.

Semester-long public-interest externships are being developed for other major U.S. cities and are expected to be introduced in a future academic year.


Admission to the program requires an application and approval of a selection committee. Contact Sarah Jane Hughes, University Scholar and Fellow in Commercial Law, for application instructions. You will receive eight credits for the externship and two for the course. You may also enroll in 1 – 3 additional credits through a directed reading (B600), directed research (B707), or independent research (B706) course, supervised by faculty members in Bloomington. You will receive letter grades in the courses for directed research or independent research; a directed reading is pass/fail. The coursework for the 8 credit externship (B538) is pass/fail; a letter grade is awarded for the 2 credit Lawyering in the Public Interest course (B539).

More Information

Sarah Jane Hughes
University Scholar and Fellow in Commercial Law
E-mail: Sarah Jane Hughes
Phone: (812) 855-6318