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Public Interest Funding

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Duke Law School proudly offers guaranteed funding for summer internships with public interest or government entities. Funding is also available on a competitive basis for students committed to careers in government or public interest.

Duke Law Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) Grants

PILF grants are guaranteed* summer funding to students who secure a qualifying public service position for the summer, including: local, state, or federal government; not-for-profit organizations or NGOs (including international); and summer judicial internships (2Ls only). To qualify for a full grant, 1Ls must commit to at least 8 weeks (at 40 hours per week) and 2Ls to at least 10 weeks; funding may be pro-rated for lesser commitments or split summers. Grant amounts for 2Ls are higher than for 1Ls. 

PILF Grants are supported by the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), a student-run organization whose mission is to encourage community engagement by Duke Law students through pro bono work and other community volunteering, and to provide financial support for students doing unpaid public interest summer internships and bar grants for graduating students entering public interest positions. PILF works with the Law school supporting fundraising efforts for summer fellowships and bar grants, hosts its' own fundraisers, and partners with other student organizations on fundraisers. PILF also receives a portion of the proceeds from sales of Duke Law merchandise through Duke Stores.

*Students must volunteer at least 15 hours during the academic year to receive funding.   

Duke Law Endowed Public Interest Fellowships

These competitive summer fellowships are made possible through endowments to Duke Law School from generous alumni donors. To qualify for these fellowships, applicants must secure a summer position with a non-profit, NGO, or government organization in the U.S. or abroad. Open to 1Ls and 2Ls; full summer (8 or 10 weeks at 40 hours per week) and split summer arrangements are eligible. Successful applicants will have a demonstrated commitment to developing a career in the public interest; other factors which will be considered are involvement in public interest and pro bono activities at Duke Law and prior public interest and volunteer work. These are competitive fellowships, with a preference for 2Ls. Students awarded these fellowships typically receive more funding than they would through solely a PILF Grant. 

The endowment funds that support these fellowships include: Carroll & Simon; Steckley Weitzel; Burdman; Everett Fellowship; Mansfield Fellowship; and the Zipp Family Fellowship.

Duke Law Alexandra D. Korry L'86 Civil Rights Fellowships

These competitive fellowships are awarded to students doing a wide range of domestic civil rights related summer work, including internships in: civil rights and criminal justice reform organizations; civil legal aid; juvenile and public defense offices; and organizations supporting immigration, environmental justice, gender equality and the arts. Both 1L and 2L students are eligible for the fellowships; it is anticipated that up to ten awards will be given annually, with two thirds of the awards going to 2Ls. Award amounts will be equivalent to or higher than Endowed Fellowship amounts. The fellowship was established in honor of Duke Law Alumna Alexandra D. Korry L’86 for her outstanding pro bono civil rights work and her contribution to ending juvenile solitary confinement. (For more information, see these articles in Duke Law Magazine and The New York Times)

Duke University Stanback Environmental Fellowships

The Stanback Fellowship Program is a program exclusive to Duke undergraduate, graduate, and professional students that offers placements with environmental advocacy organizations nationwide. The program is administered by the Nicholas School of the Environment through the generous support of Mr. & Mrs. Fred Stanback. Several legal organizations post for 1Ls and 2Ls; past employers include the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Earthjustice, Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Counsel, Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, and the North Carolina Conservation Network.

For Endowed Public Interest Summer Fellowships and Dean's Summer Service Grants, students may seek additional funding outside the Law School or Duke University, including from their employer or through external sources, up to a total of $7000 without a reduction in their grant amount.

Annual Equal Justice Works Conference & Career Fair

Duke Law covers registration and lodging expenses for 1Ls, 2Ls, 3Ls, and LLMs to attend the annual Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair in Washington, DC, the nation's largest public interest legal career fair. The event features 2 days of conference sessions on a wide-range of public interest career paths and issue areas, including student debt management and post-graduate fellowships, as well as over 200 employers available for designated networking and interview times. 

Other Public Interest Conferences

Duke Law also offers funding for students to attend other public interest conferences and programs tailored to individual interests and goals. Conferences are often organized around a type of practice area or advocacy issue. 

Interview Travel Funding

Most public interest employers are unable to pay candidate interview travel expenses, even during the post-graduate and entry-level hiring process. Recognizing that an in-person interview maximizing a student's competitiveness, the law school assists third-year students in covering interview travel costs. 

PILF Bar Grants

The Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) awards Bar Grants to 3Ls committed to a public interest career immediately after graduation or to a clerkship followed by a public interest position. These grants help offset the cost of studying for the bar exam the summer after graduation. Awards can be used towards bar exam registration fees, bar study course tuition, or living expenses incurred during the summer. Students must meet PILF requirements and volunteer at least 15 hours during the academic year to receive a bar grant.

Keller Fellowship

Duke University School of Law is pleased to announce the new year-long post-graduate Keller Fellowship, named to honor John Keller, Class of 1987, for his work for over thirty years with Legal Aid of NC. The fellowship has been initially funded by members of the Class of 1987. The Fellowship is open to graduating students each class year. 

Fellows work with a host organization doing domestic legal work in the United States. The host organization must be a 501(c)(3) and cannot be a project or clinic within a law school. Duke Law will provide the selected fellow’s salary and benefits, including health insurance and paid time off, for a year. 

Applicants are not required to identify a particular practice area, focus or new project for consideration, though these are welcomed. Fellowships doing civil legal work for low income or indigent clients, particularly work that addresses issues related to eliminating poverty, are preferred.

It is anticipated that the Fellowship will start in August or September of the year the student graduates and last one year. The Fellow will be compensated at a rate equivalent to the entry level salary at the host organization, but the salary may not exceed $55,000.

Bridge to Practice

The Bridge to Practice Fellowship program offers paid, post-graduate fellowships with public interest, government and other legal employers for graduating Duke Law students. Created in Spring 2008, the program was designed to assist graduates seeking employment in sectors that do not typically hire until after bar passage. The program also is open to graduating students who have not secured long-term employment by graduation. The goal of the program is to provide graduating students with meaningful, full-time work experiences that will serve as a springboard to long-term positions in the graduate’s desired sector and location. Click here for more information.

Loan Repayment Assistance Program

The Loan Repayment Assistance Program program greatly reduces the degree to which financing the cost of a legal education limits career options and opens the door to public service careers by providing a path for total loan forgiveness. Click here for more information.

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Log in for more details and how to apply for funding. 

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Contact Stella Boswell, Assistant Dean of Public Interest and Pro Bono, or Bethan Eynon, Director of Public Interest Careers.