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Will a Trump Presidency Renew Interest in Public Interest Law?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 15, 2016 1:00 PM

The Trump brand has always been good for lawyers' bottom line. There are the bankruptcies, coupled with the constant lawsuits, on top of the constant threat of lawsuits. All of it adds up to plenty of billable hours, if not always the clearest respect for the rule of law. Now, with Trump posed to take over the highest office in the land, BigLaw lawyers are expecting an increase in work should Trump follow through on his promises to upend everything from international trade, to health care, to tax law.

But there's another group who might be set to gain, in both cash flow and public profile, under a Trump administration: nonprofit, public interest groups, and their lawyers, who have vowed to fight some of the candidate's most controversial proposals.

For Progressive Groups, the Donations Come Pouring In

Liberals shocked by Trump's unexpected electoral college win and worried about Trump presidency have been looking for ways to push back against the country's hard-right swing. Some have taken to the streets while others, according to a report in the Atlantic, have opened up their pocket books.

Planned Parenthood, for example, has reported an "unprecedented" increase in donations following the election. Donald Trump has pledged to work towards  overturning Roe v. Wade and said on the campaign trail that women who have abortions deserve "some form of punishment." His running mate, Mike Pence, has devoted much of his career to fighting reproductive rights of women.

Planned Parenthood has received 80,000 donations in the week since the election, according to its president, Cecile Richards. Many of those donations are made in Mike Pence's name. And while much of that money will go to providing health care services to women, some of it is likely to end up supporting Planned Parenthood lawyers fighting against restrictions to abortion rights.

Enough Donations to Crash the Website

Of course, pro-choice donors aren't the only ones funding public interest groups. Two days after the election, the American Civil Liberties Union released a powerful statement, vowing that their "litigators and activists" will "contend" Trump's agenda "with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step." Their donation page crashed shortly after. Once it was back up, roughly 120,000 donations were made in just five days.

The Sierra Club, too, has seen donations rise, reporting a quadrupling of its monthly donation record. Trump has vowed to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement and has tapped climate change "skeptic" Myron Ebell to head the EPA transition. There's even rumors that Sarah "Drill, Baby, Drill" Palin will be put in charge of public lands.

Finally, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has seen a surge in volunteers, according to the Atlantic, while the Anti-Defamation League has experienced a 50-fold increase online donations. There seems to be few left-leaning groups that haven't seen some sort of surge in interest and donations in the past few days.

Should Trump go through with some of his most controversial proposals, these groups, and their lawyers, could be on the front lines of those fights. And they'll now be there with unprecedented backing from the public.

Have an open position at your law firm (or public interest group)? Post the job for free on Indeed, or search local candidate resumes.

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