“Our Galilee immersion program is an example of what makes Notre Dame unique. To be a ‘different kind of lawyer’ means to see firsthand what a difference a lawyer can make in communities across our country and around the world. Galilee is intended to shape those serving as much as it touches those served. In the end, our goal is to use law and legal services to help everyone experience the loving, creative presence of God.”

– G. Marcus Cole, Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law

Through Galilee, students meet with public defenders and prosecutors, legal aid attorneys, private firm attorneys engaged in pro bono work, judges, public policy advocates, and governmental law agencies in a city of their choosing during Christmas break.

Galilee offers many benefits to students. It exposes them to a wide range of legal practice areas and helps them find their unique calling in the law. It allows them to explore the legal market in a city of their choice and to connect with Notre Dame alumni in that city.

Consistent with Notre Dame’s mission to educate a different kind of lawyer, Galilee helps students explore how to incorporate public interest work into their legal careers, whether through full-time jobs or through pro bono work while working in a private law firm.

How Galilee Works

With the help of a faculty member and student mentors who have previously participated in Galilee, students form small groups, choose a city to visit, research legal organizations in that city, and then design a 3- or 4-day immersion to be conducted in early January during the week before spring semester classes resume. After returning to Notre Dame, students engage in a debriefing session to reflect together on their experiences. The process is highly structured and organized so that students have the information and support they need to work step-by-step through the planning process.

The process begins in early September when the faculty instructor and student mentors host an informational meeting to explain the program. Student mentors then work with interested students to help them organize into small groups and choose cities to visit. By the end of September, students are asked to commit to a specific city and formally enroll in the class. Participants attend mandatory orientation sessions in mid-fall to introduce them to public interest law and to guide their planning efforts.

During the latter part of the fall semester, participants work within their small groups to develop specific plans for their city visits. A student mentor is assigned to help each team develop its itinerary. Students schedule visits with non-profit legal organizations, governmental law offices, courts, and a private law firm. Generally, participants visit 6-8 organizations during their 3-4 day immersion. Each city group also engages in a brief service project and may meet with local Notre Dame alumni. The city groups are encouraged to stay together during their visit in common lodging so that they can reflect together on their experience as it occurs.


Galilee participants earn one standard academic credit, which is reflected on the spring semester transcript. Please note that Galilee does NOT count as an Experiential course for purposes of meeting the 6-credit experiential learning requirement.

Requirements and Expectations

In order to receive credit, a Galilee participant must comply with the following requirements:

  • Attendance at three mandatory class sessions.
  • Submission of two reflection assignments by the published deadlines.
  • Active participation in the city group’s activities, including planning the itinerary, arranging lodging, and thanking host organizations.
  • Participation in all scheduled activities during the city visit.
  • Full cooperation with Galilee student mentors.
  • Participants may not change city groups after the orientation program without the express permission of the Faculty Instructor.

Students may not withdraw from the Galilee program after they have submitted an enrollment form unless they receive an excused absence for good cause shown from the Director of Student Services. A student who fails to attend the city visit without such an excused absence will receive a grade of Unsatisfactory.

Galilee 2019

Choosing a City

Galilee participants are free to choose which city to visit. There must be 2-7 students in each city group, and the city must have sufficient public interest/governmental lawyering activity to provide a substantial learning opportunity.

Students typically choose cities with which they expect to have some connection in their legal careers. For some students, it is their home town or a city in which they expect to work. For others, it may be a city that has public interest activities in a subject area of particular interest. One practical consideration is where students expect to spend their Christmas break. It may be prohibitively expensive to choose a city that will require a long additional trip.

For students with financial concerns, South Bend and Chicago are two cities that should be considered. There are normally students visiting both cities. Students doing a Galilee immersion in South Bend incur no extra travel or lodging expenses. Chicago is also close by and a popular destination for Galilee with a rich variety of opportunities.

Students will have an opportunity at the organizational meetings in early fall to express their interest in particular cities and to encourage others to join them. Participants should be open to forming a team with classmates they do not know well. One of the best parts about Galilee is sharing ideas and experiences while getting to know new people.

Past cities have included:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Austin, TX
  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Columbus, OH
  • Denver, CO
  • Detroit, MI
  • Houston, TX
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Louisville, KY
  • Miami, FL
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  • Nashville, TN
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York, NY
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Portland, OR
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • South Bend, IN
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Tampa, FL
  • Tulsa, OK
  • Washington D.C.

Planning an Itinerary

Galilee participants are encouraged to plan activities that will give them exposure to a variety of lawyers engaged in public interest, public service and pro bono work and to the problems that those lawyers are addressing. A student mentor from a past Galilee group will be assigned to each city group to help it plan an itinerary. Students will often have lists of organizations that previous Galilee groups have visited in that city. Groups are asked to visit both direct service providers (e.g., legal aid groups) and lawyers involved in broader policy advocacy; including private, non-profit and governmental lawyers working in both criminal and civil practices. The visits need not be limited to law offices. For example, groups have gained broader perspectives on criminal law practice by visiting public defender offices, prosecutors’ offices, prisons, and also doing police ride-alongs. A group interested in housing law might visit both a legal services office and also a municipal housing court to see how justice plays out in a “people’s court.” One group interested in immigration law visited a non-profit immigrant advocacy office, a detention facility, and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. Groups often meet with judges. Every group also visits a private law firm’s pro bono department to develop a sense of how pro bono work can fit into a private firm career, and also to see how the private bar and the public interest bar interact.

Each group is asked to plan a service activity. Ideally, the service project will be law-related, such as fielding intake calls at a legal aid office. Not every group is able to find a legal volunteering activity, however. Some past groups have served meals at a soup kitchen or volunteered at a homeless shelter. If a group plans a non-legal service activity, it should do something that puts students in direct contact with people in need.