David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law & Policy


About the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy


The David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy is one of the nation’s most innovative and successful law school public interest programs. Since its inception, the Program has set a high standard for training the next generation of public interest advocates and leaders.

At UCLA Law, students will find a dynamic environment that brings together faculty, administrators, students and alumni to explore critical issues on a local and global scale. The Program curriculum offers an innovative and rigorous approach to legal education that enables students to refine their own career goals while educating and training them to engage in sophisticated representation of traditionally underserved individuals, communities and interests. Program faculty has an unparalleled depth and breadth of knowledge and experience representing a wide cross-section of topics in social justice. They work with Program administrators to counsel, guide and support students and alumni as they pursue impactful public interest careers.

Through its speaker series and other colloquia and symposia, interdisciplinary collaborations and active engagement in the community, the Program helps advance sustainable solutions to some of our society’s most pressing challenges.

Public Interest Law and Policy Specialization

The Program Specialization strives to provide an innovative and intellectually ambitious curriculum that trains students to engage in sophisticated representation of traditionally underrepresented individuals, communities and interests while utilizing a range of problem-solving tools.  Thus, Program students are required to satisfy the general requirements for a J.D. degree while also satisfying the Program’s specific curricular requirements.

The Program curriculum is intended both to address fundamental questions about public interest lawyering that affect all areas of practice and to allow students to pursue a curricular path tailored to their individual interests and career goals.  The Program curricular requirements include a first-year seminar, a special section of the first-year Lawyering Skills course, a second-year “problem solving” seminar, an additional four advanced courses from a designated menu of courses, and a writing requirement.

Program students also have ample opportunity to select from the general School of Law curriculum courses that relate to their public interest orientation and goals, as well as to enroll in other academic specializations and pursue joint degrees.

The Program’s Definition of “Public Interest”

The Program has consistently defined “public interest” broadly, as “any and all interests underrepresented by the private market,” including the interests of the poor and ethnic minorities, unpopular causes “across the political spectrum,” and undervalued stakes in the common good (such as the environment). 

Our Alumni

In light of the Program’s broad definition of “public interest,” it always has been understood that students admitted to the Program would evidence significant diversity in their respective career goals, as well as in their interests.  Thus, as envisioned by the faculty who founded the Program, some students would go on to careers in more traditional kinds of public interest work – pursuing civil rights litigation, providing legal services for the poor, or engaging in transactional work with nonprofit organizations to develop housing or employment resources.  Others would possibly work exclusively in the realm of politics and policy-making, both inside and outside government.  Still others would start up community-based law practices serving the needs of specific communities.  While others would focus more on educating and organizing vulnerable communities rather than engaging in more traditional legal work.  And still others would pursue a career in academia or be appointed to the judiciary.

And so, indeed, the Program alumni – now numbering approximately 400 and constituting fourteen Program classes – are making their mark in diverse settings – in the nonprofit, government and private sectors, the judiciary and academia – across the country and abroad.  Engaged in addressing a broad array of social justice issues both domestically and abroad, our alumni are innovative thinkers, fierce advocates, recipients of prestigious national fellowships, exceptional leaders and founders of pioneering organizations, working to reduce poverty and injustice and to promote democratic values.  And, they remain dedicated to and engaged with the Program.

Following is a sampling of the organizations, agencies and offices with which our alumni are working:   

Nonprofit Organizations

  • A New Way of Life
  • Accountability Counsel
  • ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties
  • Advancement Project
  • Alliance for Children's Rights
  • American Constitution Society
  • Appalachian Voices
  • Asian American Justice Center
  • Asian Law Caucus
  • Asian Pacific American Legal Center
  • Bay Area Legal Aid
  • Bet Tzedek Legal Services
  • California Civil Rights Coalition
  • California Conference for Equality and Justice
  • California Reinvestment Coalition
  • California Rural Legal Assistance
  • California Women’s Law Center
  • Campaign Legal Center
  • Center for Women and HIV Advocacy
  • Central American Resource Center
  • Children's Law Center of California
  • Chinese for Affirmative Action
  • Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations
  • Disability Rights Advocates
  • Disability Rights California
  • Disability Rights Legal Center
  • Earthjustice
  • East Bay Community Law Center
  • Environment Now
  • Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
  • Equal Justice Initiative
  • Equal Justice Society
  • Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project
  • Fair Housing Law Project
  • Florence Immigrant Rights Project
  • Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Immigration Center for Women & Children
  • Inner City Law Center
  • Kansas City Legal Services
  • Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
  • Learning Rights Law Center
  • Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Legal Aid Society of New York
  • Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago
  • Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
  • National Center for Youth Law
  • National Health Law Program
  • National Immigration Law Center
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce
  • Prison Law Office
  • Public Advocates
  • Public Counsel Law Center
  • Service Employees International Union
  • Texas Association of Community Health Centers
  • Vermont Land Trust
  • Western Center on Law & Poverty

Government Agencies & Offices

  • Alameda County Public Defender
  • Bronx Defenders
  • California Agricultural Labor Relations Board
  • California Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
  • California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General
  • California State Senate
  • Colorado State Public Defender
  • Fairfax County Public Defender
  • Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.
  • General Services Administration
  • Los Angeles City Attorney
  • Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender
  • Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
  • Los Angeles County Office of the County Counsel
  • Los Angeles County District Attorney
  • Los Angeles County Public Defender
  • Montana Department of Commerce
  • National Labor Relations Board
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • New York City Department of Probation
  • New York State Attorney General’s Office
  • Office of the Utah Attorney General
  • Office of the Federal Defender, Central District, California
  • Peralta Community College District Office of the General Counsel
  • Public Defender Service of Washington, D.C.
  • Sacramento County Public Defender
  • Santa Clara County Public Defender
  • The White House, Executive Office of the President, Council on Environmental Quality
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District, California
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District, New York
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement
  • U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Tax Policy
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IX
  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • U.S. House of Representatives, Energy & Commerce Committee