Public Interest Careers and Funding
The Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono offers comprehensive career advising, support, and funding for students and alumni interested in government and public interest (GPI) positions. It works in close partnership with the Career and Professional Development Center to help students take the right steps to lead to their desired short- and long-term career goals.
Working with faculty, student groups, and others, the office hosts educational programs and community-building events throughout the year to bring GPI-focused students together, and to inform the wider student body about GPI careers and opportunities. The office also administers Duke Law School funding to support public interest internships and post-graduate work, including guaranteed summer funding, short-term post-graduate funding, and yearlong fellowships. Funding is also available for interview travel support and approved conferences.
Duke students are competitive in the most elite hiring programs, including post-graduate fellowships and federal government honors programs. The Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono features two specialized career counselors to serve the unique needs of students pursuing these careers. Counselors first meet with 1Ls in late September and continue with them through all three years. They also develop GPI career programming and resources, maintain GPI employer and alumni relationships, and partner with the Career & Professional Development Center to ensure every Duke Law student has assistance to pursue their goals.
Post-graduate GPI applicants must demonstrate their commitment and passion for a particular practice through strategic experiences throughout law school, all aimed at developing the skills and substantive knowledge to manage a caseload the first day on the job. A 3L resume may include GPI summer internships; clinics; part-time externships or Duke in DC; targeted coursework; pro bono volunteerism; extracurricular leadership; specialized research assistantships; journals, moot court, or mock trial; and more.
Duke Law hosts programs covering public interest topics nearly every week of the academic year. These programs provide substantive information on pressing topics and the opportunity to engage with speakers. The programs are hosted by student groups, faculty, Duke Law centers, and more. The Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono works with students, staff, faculty and alumni to provide programming and to build and support the law school’s public interest community.
Within the first few weeks of the fall semester, there are ways for new students to meet like-minded peers, upper-level students, staff, and faculty. Three signature programs happen within the first two months of school:
- The Public Interest and Pro Bono Kickoff is an opportunity for all students to meet with leaders of the thirteen-plus student-led pro bono groups, public interest student organizations, and staff members from the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono.
- The Annual Public Interest Retreat is an offsite day-long gathering focusing on community building and education for students of all class years.
- Equal Justice Works, a D.C.-based organization, hosts the nation’s largest public interest legal career fair and conference. Duke Law covers registration and expenses for students to attend. When held in person, the event features 2 days of conference sessions on a wide range of public interest career paths and issue areas and a career fair with over 200 employers available for designated networking and interview times. Duke Law holds a separate public interest alumni and student evening reception to connect current students with Duke Law alumni working in D.C. or in town for the conference.
Duke Law is pleased to offer funding support to graduates pursuing public interest positions, including year-long paid fellowships, short terms fellowships to assist graduates awaiting bar results and permanent positions, grants to help defray the costs of bar study, and loan repayment assistance for graduates in public interest or public service work.
The Farrin Fellowship, supported by Duke Law Graduate James Farrin ’90 and the law firm bearing his name, is a year-long post-graduate fellowship open to graduating students each class year. Fellows work with a host organization, typically a 501(c)(3), doing domestic legal work. Duke Law provides the fellow’s salary and benefits for a year. Fellowships doing legal work for low income or indigent clients, particularly work that benefits individuals or groups that have historically faced discrimination, are preferred, as are fellowships serving clients in the Carolinas.
The Keller Fellowship, named to honor John Keller, class of 1987, for his work for over thirty-five years with Legal Aid of NC, is open to graduating students each year. The fellowship was initially funded by members of the Class of 1987. Fellows work with a host organization doing domestic legal work in the United States. Duke Law provides the fellow’s salary and benefits for a year. Fellowships doing civil legal work for low-income or indigent clients, particularly work that addresses issues related to eliminating poverty, are preferred.
Duke Law School is part of the Law School Partnership Program that works with Gideon’s Promise, a nonprofit public defender organization whose mission is to transform the criminal justice system. Through the program, Duke Law will provide up to one year of funding for a recent graduate working in a public defender office with the understanding that the office will then hire the graduate. The graduate will be a participant in Gideon’s Promise 3-year CORE 101 program and learn client-centered values, legal skills critical to indigent defense, and build community with a cohort of public defenders nationwide.
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.
Duke Law Public Interest Bar Grants
Duke Law School awards Bar Grants to 3Ls committed to a public interest career immediately after graduation or to a judicial 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.
Duke Law Public Interest Summer Internship Grants
Duke Law School offers guaranteed* summer funding to students who secure a qualifying public interest internship for the summer. Full grants are awarded for 8 or more weeks at 40 hours per week. Funding may be pro-rated for lesser commitments or split summers. Grant amounts for 2Ls are higher than grant amounts for 1Ls.
*First year students must complete at least 15 pro bono 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. Students must secure a qualifying summer internship with a non-profit, NGO, or government organization in the U.S. or abroad, and demonstrate a commitment to developing a career in public interest.
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. 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 Council, Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, and the North Carolina Conservation Network.
For Public Interest Summer Internship Grants, Endowed Public Interest Summer Fellowships, and Alexandra D. Korry L'86 Civil Rights Fellowships, students may seek additional funding from outside the Law School or Duke University, including from their employer or through external sources; if the total funding is below the annually set cap, there is no reduction in the student’s Duke law grant or fellowship.