Duke Law offers new funding options for summer 2010 public interest placements

January 27, 2010Duke Law News

Duke Law School is offering two new sources of funding for students who take summer legal jobs in public service. The new Dean’s Summer Service Grant offers $3,000 to second-year students who secure qualifying summer positions, and the Horvitz Public Law Fellowship provides funding to first- and second-year students who secure qualifying public law-related summer positions.

The new grants meet the convergent needs of public-interest and government organizations and of Duke Law students, who have shown tremendous and ever-increasing interest public-sector jobs, according to Kim Bart, assistant dean of Public Interest and Pro Bono.

“Growing numbers of Duke Law students are indicating interest in pursuing careers in public service,” Bart says. “Most summer positions in public interest and government are unpaid, and students seeking those experiences must secure their own funding. Dean Levi recognized that without institutional financial support, many students would not have the opportunity to explore public service career opportunities through summer work.”

Qualifying positions for the Dean’s Summer Service Grant include local, state, or federal government internships, positions with nonprofit or non-governmental organizations, and summer judicial internships. Students must commit to at least 10 weeks at 40 hours-per-week in order to qualify for a full grant; funding may be pro-rated for lesser commitments or split summers. Students applying for the Dean’s Summer Service Grant must complete at least 10 hours of pro bono service within the school year, prior to the application deadline.

“We have a responsibility to give back to our communities and those less fortunate,” says Mark Fishman ’78, one of the primary financial supporters of the Dean’s Summer Service Grant. “I commend students who are willing to spend their summers in pursuit of that goal. We need to see to it that they receive compensation for that effort that benefits us all.”

Peter Kahn ’76 says that he and his wife chose to support the grant because of the changing legal landscape. “I've always believed that our students should seriously consider legal careers in public service, where many of their true interests lie,” Kahn says. “With the tightening of the economy and the resultant decrease in law firm opportunities, I felt there was no better time for my wife and me to encourage and support our students in seeking out and obtaining public service positions.”

The Horvitz Public Law Fellowship was established by Rick Horvitz ’78, the longtime benefactor of the Program in Public Law, to support law-related summer experiences that contribute to a student's understanding of the constitutional framework. Some examples of qualifying positions include: the offices of state attorneys general and solicitors general; the Department of Justice; other federal positions offering work related to constitutional matters; federal executive branch office internships, including positions with the White House or cabinet offices; and positions with organizations that work on issues of federalism, civil liberties, or other constitutional law-related issues.

Bruce A. Elvin, assistant dean and director of the Career & Professional Development Center, noted that summer judicial internships also are qualified positions for a Horvitz Public Law Fellowship.

Elvin said the positions covered by both grants ensure valuable experience for law students. “The objective is to help students deepen their experience base and to create ‘pillars of strength,’ whatever their post-graduation goals. Of course, for students planning to launch their careers in public service, summer work in a chosen field demonstrates commitment to that type of work, an understanding of the nature of the work, and helps the student talk substantively about issues when approaching future employers.”

Bart agrees. “In addition to practice experience, students working with public interest organizations for the summer also will be serving a public good, in many cases providing legal representation and advice to people who otherwise would go without representation,” she says.

» Details about these new programs

» Download the fellowship application