Public Interest Law and Practice

Public Interest Law and Practice (PILP) is a yearlong graded course where students learn the substantive law governing the operation and decisionmaking of state regulatory agencies. PILP can be taken for either four or five units.

Substantive Component

In teaching students the knowledge and skills needed by public interest lawyers, CPIL focuses on the law that governs state administrative agencies. In particular, CPIL focuses on agencies that license and regulate business, professions, and trades. Students examine the "sunshine laws" which require most of these agencies to make decisions in public and with an opportunity for informed public comment (the open meetings laws and the public records act) as well as the Administrative Procedure Act, the statute that establishes the procedures for the agency’s adoption of regulations that have the force of law ("rulemaking") and its taking of disciplinary action against the license of a licensee ("adjudication").

Students also learn about some important limitations on the authority of an agency to take action—state statutory limits, federal constitutional limits, and federal antitrust concepts. Finally, students learn about the governmental milieu within which these agencies function—as part of the executive branch, they interact with the legislative and judicial branches; students examine these important "separation of powers" interactions. Regardless of the area of public interest law in which a law student plans to practice (e.g., environmental or consumer protection; children’s, women’s, or civil rights), an understanding of the functioning of administrative agencies is indispensable.

Clinical Component

In PILP, each student is assigned to monitor the activities an administrative agency for an entire academic year. Students monitor these agencies by studying the statutes that have created them, the regulations they have adopted, other decisions they have made, the industry they regulate, and observing and recording their decisions. Students must also attend agency meetings and hearings, which occur all over the state at various intervals.

Twice during the academic year, students submit comprehensive reports on the activities of their assigned agency. In a specified format, these reports track and cover the agency’s recent decisions (including rulemaking), legislation and litigation which affect the agency and/or its licensees, and other important matters. These reports are edited by CPIL staff, and published in the Center’s journal, the California Regulatory Law Reporter