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.

The law school also offers limited funding for attendance at public interest conferences and travel for public interest interviews; see the navigation bar to the right for more information. 

See the "Duke University Funding" section below for funding related to specific environmental internships and the "External Funding Sources" page for sources related to specific practice areas or in specific geographic locations. 

    Duke Law Funding

    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 $6500 without a reduction in their grant amount.

    Duke Endowed Public Interest Summer 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 Dean’s Summer Service Grant.

    Dean's Summer Service Grant

    The Dean’s Service Grant guarantees* 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. 

    Dean’s Summer Service Grants are heavily supported by the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), a student-run fundraising organization whose mission is to help the law school raise money to award summer fellowships to 1L and 2L students who accept unpaid summer public interest internships and to provide bar grants to graduating students entering public interest positions. PILF’s largest annual fundraiser is its Celebration & Auction in the spring semester; other fundraisers, including Duke Law merchandise sales, take place throughout the year. Students should sign-up for the PILF email list to learn of volunteer opportunities.

    Post-Funding Requirements

    Students who receive funding from the above Duke Law sources must stipulate that they will do the following:
    • Send a personal thank you letter to their donor(s) describing their summer work, and
    • Participate in programming to discuss summer positions for the following summer. 


    *Students must complete at least 20 hours of public service work during the school year to receive funding. In 2020-2021, in response to the pandemic, the hours have been reduced from 20 hours to 9 hours (while the 9 hours would normally consist of 3 PILF hours, to assist with PILF fundraising, and 6 pro bono hours, given the challenges around fundraising events during the pandemic, this year pro bono hours may be converted to PILF hours as follows:  pro bono hours in excess of six can be substituted for PILF hours in a 2-for-1 ratio where 2 pro bono hours = 1 PILF hour). Pro bono hours must be through a Duke Law pro bono project or with a pro bono project that is approved by the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono. Clinic and externship hours in excess of what is required for academic credit count as pro bono hours for funding purposes. 

    The Stanback Internship Program

    The Stanback Internship Program is exclusive to Duke University and provides students with significant and substantive summer work experience in over 50 environmental organizations. The program is administered by the Nicholas School of the Environment. Students earn a $5,000 stipend for 11 weeks of full-time work, which can be prorated for split summers. These internships are great opportunities to develop a wide range of legal skills that are transferable to practice areas in both private and public interest settings. Neither interest in an environmental law career nor prior environmental experience is necessary. Stanback internships may also include science, policy, advocacy and other conservation-related work. Every year, between 6-18 Duke Law students participate. Application deadlines for law students begin Fall Semester and run through the spring. Resource Center

    Go to “Funding Sources”  and then “Summer Funding” for a list of resources related to funding sources in various locations or regions, including law firm split summer programs and more. One example of sources located in this resource is the Florida Bar Foundation Legal Service Summer Fellowship Program that awards between $6,500 and $8250 for work at non-profit legal service programs throughout the state and includes a lenghty list of non-profits. 

    Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps JD

    This AmeriCorps-funded program provides a $1,222 education award voucher that can be directly applied to qualified educational expenses. Students must complete 300 hours of summer legal work at a nonprofit, public interest organization, within one of the program’s outlined practice areas. Applications are accepted from December to April and awards are made on a rolling basis. 

    McMillan Fellowship Program (Charlotte, NC)

    The McMillan Fellowship Program offers stipends of up to $3,500 for students interested in a public interest career who are working with participating employers in Mecklenburg County. After students apply for and receive a position, the employer and student will then submit a joint application. The McMillian website lists participating employers; applications are generally due in early March.

    State Bar of Georgia Internship Program

    Law students and recent graduates may apply for up to $5,000 for 10 weeks/400 hours of work at a public interest legal organization in Georgia. This program is through the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyer's Division Public Interest Internship Program (PIIP). Applications are usually due in March of each year. 

    Rural Summer Legal Corps

    Run in conjunction with Equal Justice Works, the Rural Summer Legal Corps connects public interest law students with Legal Services Corporation-funded civil legal aid organizations around the country. Students receive a $4,000 stipend to work with a selected organization. The Equal Justice Works website includes participating locations. Applications are generally due in February.

    Current Students

    The application for Summer 2020 funding is open. Log in here.  The 2020 application will be due in by April 10, 2020. 

    If you have not yet secured employment but may need summer funding based on an anticipated qualifying employer, you should still complete the application by the deadline.  


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