Community and Activism

Finding your niche in the public service community at UVA Law isn’t hard. The possibilities abound for students who want to meet other likeminded students and be involved in meaningful public service projects at the Law School and beyond. You’ll find a wealth of student organizations focused on public service, a full calendar of public service events happening year-round at the school, and a rich offering of pro bono programs that will take you into the Charlottesville-Albemarle community. You’ll be surrounded by faculty and administrators who share your passion for public service lawyering and commitment to nurturing a strong public service community.

Students with a strong interest in public service careers after law school also have the option of becoming even more deeply involved through the Program in Law and Public Service (LPS).  LPS fellows take core LPS classes together and participate in brown-bag lunches with guest speakers, potluck dinners, and faculty-hosted gatherings throughout the year.  Often they’re the driving force behind new initiatives and organizations that will benefit the public service community.

Student Organizations

Over 20 student-run organizations contribute to the vibrant public service community at UVA Law. Our largest public service organization, the Public Interest Law Association (PILA), plays a role in supplementing Law School funding for summer public service internships. In addition to fundraising, PILA organizes a multi-city Alternative Spring Break program each spring, runs a robust peer mentorship program for 1Ls, and holds the fall’s signature event, the annual PILA auction.

Read more below about other student organizations at UVA Law that focus significantly on public service work or areas of public service practice:    


Public Service Events

Barely a week goes by at UVA Law without a panel, symposium, talk, or student gathering focused on public service lawyers and lawyering.  Whether it’s a lecture on juvenile justice by a litigator or a panel on careers in the government, you will find an abundance of events to grab your interest and inspire you.

Here are highlights of the public service events that our community hosts from year to year:

  • Shaping Justice Conference: A two-day conference for law students across the country that brings together diverse public service practitioners and a keynote speaker of national stature to UVA Law for panels, workshops, and a reception.
  • Real Deal Series: A four-part panel series held each fall by the Public Service Center specifically for 1Ls that surveys areas of public service practice, drawing diverse alumni from legal aid, nonprofit, prosecution, public defense, and federal government careers.
  • Women in Public Service: A day of panels and workshops by, about, and for women in public service careers, sponsored by Virginia Law Women, that culminates in a networking reception drawing prominent UVA Law public service alumnae.
  • Public Service On-Grounds Interviews: One of three annual on-campus interview sessions hosted by the Public Service Center each February, drawing 30-40 public service organizations to UVA Law to interview students for internships and jobs.
  • PILA Auction:  A live auction held each fall by PILA that raises a significant amount of money for PILA summer internship grants and provides one of the Law School’s most popular student events of the year.
  • Public Service Kick-Off: A gathering of all the key players in the public service community, headlined by a prominent public service alum, that introduces students to the many organizations and opportunities available at the Law School.

Pro Bono

The pro bono ethic at UVA Law runs deep. Our students performed 16,340 logged pro bono hours per year in 2022-23.

During spring and winter breaks, and throughout the school year, a large percentage of UVA Law students volunteer their time to projects as diverse as helping LGBTQ individuals with name-change petitions, to performing client intake for juvenile justice cases, and researching disabled women’s rights under international law.

Read more about how you can make a difference on the Pro Bono Program’s site.

"Tex" Pasley and Maggie Birkel

Understanding Incarceration to Make Better Lawyers

A new student organization at the University of Virginia School of Law is supporting incarcerated people, and providing students with a better understanding of the correctional practices behind prison walls.

The Virginia Law in Prison Project connects students with pro bono experiences and opportunities to learn about correctional practices and policy.




Shaping Justice Conference

‘Shaping Justice’ Brings Public Service Community Together in ‘Age of Uncertainty’

The second annual Shaping Justice conference, titled “Shaping Justice in the Age of Uncertainty,” brought students, alumni and public interest lawyers together Feb. 2-3 at the University of Virginia School of Law.

The event was sponsored by the Program in Law and Public Service, the student-run Public Interest Law Association, and numerous student organizations.

Keynote speaker Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, addressed the woes facing civil rights advocates today.