Career Services Office - Social Justice/Public Interest Careers

You may know that you want to make a difference with your law degree, but not know exactly what “public interest law” and “social justice” mean. A common definition of public interest law is legal work on behalf of individuals, groups, and causes that are underserved by the for-profit bar. Social justice is a broad term, generally referring to a concept promoting equality and equal opportunity among everyone in a society and encouraging lawyers to think critically about the social context of their work. 

Lawyers advancing social justice can be found in a variety of work environments, including non-profit organizations, government offices, progressive firms, and legal clinics. While this list is not exhaustive, here is a bit more information about each of these employment options. 

Non-Profit Organizations 

A lawyer working for a non-profit organization may advance the non-profit’s social justice goals through direct representation of clients, through policy work and lobbying, or through a mix of these strategies. The types of issues that non-profit organizations address can include civil liberties, environmental work, human rights, poverty and more. 

Government Offices 

If you would like to work for the government, you should think about what level of government interests you. You may find it very rewarding to work in-house with a municipality, or you may feel that you would rather work for a province’s ministry or on the federal level with the Department of Justice. Additionally, you may be interested in a specific area of law, which may draw you to a particular department of a larger municipality’s in-house counsel office or to a particular office of the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG). If you plan to pursue criminal law, you can apply to MAG or the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. 

Progressive Firms 

To give you a better idea of what a progressive law firm is, we’ll let two progressive law firms describe themselves: 

“[Klippensteins is] justice-centered, which means that we care both about our clients and about providing the particular solutions they need, and also about doing work which will enhance our communities and make our common world a better place.”1 

“[Iler Campbell has] extensive experience serving co-ops, not-for-profits, charities, and socially-minded small businesses and individuals. … We strongly identify with the social goals of our clients and strive to provide the best legal services delivered promptly, cost effectively and responsively to your goals and values.”2 

“Cavalluzzo LLP is dedicated to advancing the causes of working people and social justice.”3 

You may want to join the Law Union of Ontario, a coalition of progressive lawyers, if you’d like to learn more about progressive firms.  

Legal Clinics 

Community legal clinics provide legal help for low-income people and communities with issues that involve basic needs, such as access to housing, health care and education. Some specialty clinics deal with a certain area of law, such as workers compensation or workers’ health and safety. Other specialty clinics represent specific individuals or communities, such as seniors, disabled persons, or urban Indigenous people. 


These courses are examples of courses that can help you learn what you need to begin a career advocating for social justice. Please note that these courses may not always be available. 

  • Aboriginal Law in Society, Indigenous Legal Traditions, and courses mentioned here
  • Clinic Practice Program and Clinic Seminar; 
  • Constitutional Litigation, Criminal Law & The Charter, and other Charter courses; 
  • Evidence; 
  • International Criminal Law, Public International Law, and other international law courses; 
  • Labour Law; 
  • Law and Social Work; 
  • Mental Health and the Law; 
  • Identity and the Law (such as Feminist Legal Theory, and Race and the Law)  
  • Municipal Law, Land Use Planning, and other courses related to local government. 

Other courses may also help you in your particular path. For example, if your goal is to work in house for a non-profit, you may take business law courses that a student whose main social justice related interest is refugee law would not. Similarly, a student who would like to improve access to medicines for HIV-infected patients would want to take IP courses, while a student interested in poverty law may not. 

Legal Clinics 

You can volunteer with legal clinics during the school year, and you should consider them for your summer. Windsor Law has many work-integrated, place-based, clinical and experiential learning opportunities for students. 

Community Legal Aid (CLA) offers legal services to low income and vulnerable people to avoid, prepare for, and overcome poverty law problems, achieved through a combination of community development and action. CLA provides competent and professional legal services including summary legal advice, full legal representation, and community legal education. 

Legal Assistance of Windsor (LAW) is a clinical learning project of the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law. Operating in downtown Windsor, LAW provides legal services for those in our community unable to pay for a private lawyer and a learning opportunity for students. LAW combines legal and social work professions to meet the multi-faceted needs of the low-income community in Windsor and Essex County. LAW is a joint service of the Faculty of Law, University of Windsor and Legal Aid Ontario. 

The Class Action Clinic at Windsor Law is the first clinic of its kind in North America. The clinic serves class members – people who are part of a large civil lawsuit launched on their behalf by representative plaintiffs and class counsel – across Canada. The Clinic is staffed with a team of law students, review counsel and a faculty director who provide a range of legal services, information, assistance with filing claims in settlement distribution processes, public education and outreach. 

The Cities & Climate Action Forum is an interactive platform that seeks to empower youth, other community builders, and municipal governments to work for institutional climate mitigation action at the local level. Its mission is three-fold: public engagement on climate change and the need for municipalities to act, capacity-building for collaborative and coordinated climate mitigation action at the local level, and direct assistance to municipalities and other local institutions. The experiential learning course is open to 2L and 3L Windsor Law students. Students selected for the course undertake a programme of research and community engagement. 

The Migrant Worker Clinic is a Law Foundation of Ontario funded project, organized by the Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) organization, to provide legal assistance to the workers through a monthly summary advice clinic. It is unique in offering a singular place for migrant farmworkers in the area that will address their complex, intersectional needs. For students, it is an important and novel avenue to get a holistic understanding of access to justice organizing, community engagement, and poverty law. 

Through a partnership with Wayne Law, we also have students participate in the Transnational Environmental Law Clinic in Detroit. The Transnational Environmental Law Clinic teaches students the skills and strategies needed to affect environmental policy in all levels of government. During classroom sessions, students learn about current environmental policy challenges and opportunities and explore these issues from multiple perspectives. In the clinical component, students participate in the lawmaking process by preparing policy papers and formal legislative testimony, commenting on rulemaking and permit decisions, and engaging in judicial review and enforcement litigation. 


Windsor Law’s Externship Program places students in law firms, non-profits, non-government organizations, courts, and community collectives under the supervision of a licensed lawyer. Students participate in a preparatory seminar and are provided both on-site and academic supervision throughout the term. The Externship Program incorporates work-integrated and skills-based learning alongside critical reflection, self-directed personal and career planning, focus on ethical and professional practice, and engagement with access to justice in theory and practice. 

Detroit Mercy Law also offers externship opportunities with judges, non-profits, and government offices in Michigan. 

Judicial Internships 

In Windsor Law’s Judicial Internship Program, students are placed with one or more Supervising Judges in one of the Provincial Courts across Ontario. Judicial Internships provide a unique opportunity to better understand the work of the courts, learn from observing and critically reflecting on legal advocacy, and refine legal research and writing skills under the direct supervision of a Judge. Students interested in future Clerkship opportunities are highly encouraged to consider a Judicial Internship.