Law Firm Public Interest Placement Programs

Law Firm Public Interest Placement Programs - Background

In the midst of the current economic upheaval, many law firms are facing a dramatic short-term decline in the amount of work coming in. As they try to manage their workforce in the face of this slowdown, some firms have deferred the arrival of their incoming associate class and are providing stipends for them to work for a period of time in the public interest. Some firms are offering similar public interest opportunities to under-worked associates as well.

NALP is aiding its members by collecting best practices resources that are currently being developed to assist law firms in structuring public interest placement programs. Also, NALP’s PSLawNet website is serving as clearinghouse for public interest organizations to post notices about their willingness to place law firm associates. NALP member law firm professional staff and associates can freely search these opportunity postings. Learn more below.


What is PSLawNet’s role in these developments?

PSLawNet is serving as a clearinghouse for public interest organizations to advertise themselves as host organizations. This service is free both for NALP member law firms searching the listings and for public interest organizations to post notices.

How do Law Firm Staff and Associates Search PSLawNet for Potential Public Interest Placements?

Alumni of the 200 PSLawNet subscriber law schools can create a “Job Seeker” account on PSLawNet at no charge. Go to the PSLawNet homepage – – and click on the “New User?–Job Seekers” link on the right side of the page. Those who are not subscriber school graduates should contact us directly at

After registering and logging in to PSLawNet, a “User Options” menu will appear on the left side of your screen. Within that menu, click on “Search Opportunities.” This will take you to a job-searching template.

IMPORTANT: On the job-searching template, you may search by various criteria in different search fields. One of the first fields in the template is called “Job Type.” Scroll down on this menu and select “Law Firm Associate Host.” This is the job type that public interest organizations will use to advertise openings for associates through placement programs.

After you have selected the job type “Law Firm Associate Host” you may further narrow your search geographically and by practice area.

Download our quick and easy guide on signing up for PSLawNet and searching for deferral/outplacement opportunities: How to Search for Public Interest Placements on PSLawNet 

How do public interest organizations know to place postings on PSLawNet?

PSLawNet is already well-known as a public interest job database. And, many national organizations from the public interest and law firm communities are advertising PSLawNet as a clearinghouse for law firm public interest placement programs.

Best Practices and Guidance for Law Firm Pro Bono and Human Resources Professionals

The Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCO) has produced a best practices guide for law firms, called Considerations for the Placement of Law Firm Attorneys into Public Interest Organizations (download PDF here). The guide includes in-depth discussion of a number of important topics for law firms to address in developing associate placement programs.

Pro bono clearinghouses in cities around the country can provide expertise pro bono project development and management, and can also provide direct connections to public interest organizations. Take advantage of the resources they can offer, and learn more here.

NALP has produced a one-page tip sheet that offers advice to law firms from the perspective of the public interest community called Effective Associate Public Interest Placement Tips (download PDF here).

The Chicago Bar Foundation and Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) have produced a guide offering tips and insights to both law firms and public interest host organizations (download PDF here).

The Pro Bono Institute has published a best practices guide (download PDF here) and is working in a one-on-one capacity with its law firm constituency.  Also read this letter from Esther Lardent, President/CEO of the Pro Bono Institute, on the movement of law firms to create public service opportunities for deferred and under-worked associates.

News Items Related to Public Interest Outplacements

  • 4.9.09 - National Law Journal - a first-of-its-kind public interest job fair for deferred law firm associates took place in Newark.  Read the full article.
  • 4.6.09 - Los Angeles Times - as large law firms seek to keep under-worked, junior associates busy during the recession, public interest placements are an attractive option.  Read the full article.
  • 3.30.09 - New York Law Journal (hosted also on - A new model for laid-off and out-of-work attorneys to perform pro bono work has emerged as courts in New York City, as well as Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties are recruiting attorneys to provide assistance the swelling numbers of pro se litigants.  Read the full article
National Association for Law Placement, Inc.® (NALP®)
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