We understand that as much as you stretch your student loan dollars, sometimes you need a little more money coming in to finance the work you are passionate about. There are a variety of programs available to financially help you pursue your passion.
As soon as you identify that you want to work in public interest for a summer, you should begin seeking out funding. Some organizations, such as the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, offer paid positions for the summer after your second year in law school. Others are able to pay students for work via the work study program. However, because many organizations are not able to fund positions for summer law clerks, many great opportunities are volunteer positions.
As with fellowships, there are different funding models: some scholarships and grant programs are designated for work done at a particular organization or specific geographic location, some are offered to support work done on a particular topic or to serve a specific population, and still others are offered to finance general legal services work serving low-income or similarly disenfranchised groups. For a survey of options, see Equal Justice Works’ publication Financing the Future. As soon as you identify funding sources for which you qualify, you should begin your application process. Many local organizations often hire students for summer positions prior to the student securing summer stipends. A lot of scholarships and grants require that you submit a statement your organization indicating what you will be working on, so make sure to keep them in the loop and give them plenty of time to complete their portion of the application. Some organizations may also know of funding that is available only to their law clerks, so it is sometimes fruitful to speak to a supervisor regarding your summer funding options. For a list of some organizations that have summer funding stipends, see below.
If you are a member of an ethnic, racial, or sexual minority group, or you will be serving one or more of these populations, you should also check the attendant bar association Web site to see if they are offering any scholarships or grants to fund students working in the public sector. At least two (QLAW and South Asian Bar Association) offer scholarships for law students specifically to support public interest work.
If you will be leaving the region to work, it is beneficial to also research local grantors in the city/county/state/country in which you’ll be working. Check local and state bar section and association websites, foundations, and public interest advocacy groups for leads.
Possible Summer Funding Sources
While this should not be considered a definitive funding research list for grants to support summer public interest legal opportunities, it is a good place to begin. Please note that new programs are created and some are not annual, so it is worth continuing your search throughout the year. Some of these programs fund work outside of the region.
Seattle University School of Law Public Interest Law Foundation: Open only to SU law students, grants vary in size. Application deadline is usually in late March.
PSLawNet: Clearinghouse listing numerous funding sources and application criteria. Probably the broadest range of opportunities for summer funding options. To research, go to Community Resources>Summer Funding Sources.
Sampling of fellowships/grants listed on PSLawNet:
- ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty: John J. Curtin, Jr. Legal Internship. $2500 stipend for Student to work at an organization run by a bar organization or legal services organization anywhere in the country that serves homeless clients or those at risk of becoming homeless.
- AFL-CIO Law Student Union Summer Internship. 10 week internship program for law students that combines front-line legal work with grassroots organizing in real, on-going campaigns by AFL-CIO unions in various regions of the country. $450 weekly stipend.
- Arthur C. Helton Fellowship Program. Funded by contributions from ASIL members, this one-time award will provide financial assistance, "micro- grants" of up to $1000, for law students and young lawyers to pursue human rights work and research.
- Robert Masur Fellowship in Civil Liberties, The Nation Institute. $1,000 honorarium to enable a first year law student to pursue significant summer activities in the practice areas of civil rights or civil liberties.
- ABA Fellowships in Environmental Law, ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. Fellowship with $5000 stipend to work on legal matters for a government agency or public interest organization in the fields of environmental, energy, or resources law, with emphasis on air pollution. Available to first and second year law students or third year night students from underrepresented or underserved groups.
Public Interest Clearinghouse: In its law student section, PIC lists a variety of funding sources, many of which are designated for work done in California.
Equal Justice Works: Equal Justice Works organizes, trains and supports public service-minded law students and is a national leader in creating summer and postgraduate public interest jobs. EJW offers $1000 education awards for summer public interest work.
Goldmark Equal Justice Internship Program: The Legal Foundation of Washington funds a legal intern to a Foundation grantee who will provide meaningful access to justice through research and writing, casework and client services. The intern will receive $8,000 for the ten-week internship.
The Laurel Rubin Farm Worker Justice Project: Selected interns assist farm workers in their efforts to enforce their right to fair, dignified, humane and safe working and living conditions. Interns are paid $15/hour, and Spanish fluency is required.
Public Interest Law Initiative: Each summer, PILI funds dozens of internships at public interest law agencies in the Chicago metropolitan area. Agencies hosting Summer Interns receive $5,000 to pay an Intern for 10 full-time weeks of work.
Peggy Browning Fund: The Peggy Browning Fund supports approximately 35 Summer Fellowships with a $4000 stipend in labor-related organizations throughout the United States.
Most post-graduate jobs in public interest are paid positions. Pursuing fellowships to secure employment is an alternative way to fund your work serving the public.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs are another way to bridge the gap between your paycheck and your financial commitments. States and organizations sponsor LRAPs to aid attorneys with law school debt in pursuing their careers in public interest.
Currently, seventeen states have LRAPs in place available to support “qualifying employment”: Arizona, District of Columbia, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington. Eight more states have LRAPs in some stage of development: California, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.
Seattle University also has its own Loan Repayment Assistance Program. For information, see Financial Service’s LRAP Introduction.