Under an ambitious new program, Boalt Hall is offering $4,000 fellowships to every continuing law student at the school who wants to pursue public interest or public service work this summer. The recently announced Boalt Public Interest/Public Service Summer Fellowship Program fosters the longstanding tradition of public engagement by Boalt students while responding to a need for fellowship support. Law students typically receive no salary for summer work and projects in public interest and public service law.
Proposed by Dean Christopher Edley, the new program guarantees a one-summer fellowship to all qualifying students and is intended to make summer experiences in public law financially feasible. Edley believes that Boalt’s mission as a leading public institution includes a commitment to support students aspiring to work in public interest and public service law. “A great public law school must be inclusive to produce leaders for all communities and sectors,” he says.
Law firms already have generously pledged contributions or increased previous support for the privately funded Boalt fellowships. The San Francisco office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood recently pledged to fund the new fellowships at $20,000 per year. Paul Pringle, managing partner of the San Francisco office, says that his firm is committed to supporting public interest organizations in the Bay Area and believes that the establishment of the Sidley Austin Public Interest Fellowships at Boalt Hall will greatly assist that effort. In addition, the firm of Brayton Purcell in Novato, Calif., is increasing its fellowship support.
First-year Boalt student Kelly “Bone” Burke greeted the new fellowships enthusiastically. Without the support, Burke says she probably would have looked for a paying summer job as a paralegal or in an area outside law; now she’ll pursue an internship in criminal justice work. “I can switch to the field I’m really interested in right now and check it out,” she says.
Boalt’s fellowship program builds on earlier efforts at the law school to financially support students hoping to spend the summer as unpaid legal interns at government agencies or nonprofit organizations. In recent years, Boalt and some Boalt student organizations provided summer fellowships in public-oriented work to some 50 students annually-about half the number who sought the competitive awards. The law school expects a dramatic increase in fellowship recipients under the new program.
The chief requirement for obtaining a fellowship is to demonstrate a commitment to public interest/public service work during the school year. For students interested in a second summer, Boalt is offering a number of competitive fellowships, and is working to expand a forgivable loan program for students who become public interest or public service lawyers.
The new program is intended to enable every interested student to explore public oriented law while ensuring that debt burdens do not unduly affect career aspirations. In 2004, 218 of Boalt’s 322 graduating students accumulated loans averaging $56,000 for their law school education. Entry-level salaries averaged $34,000 for lawyers pursuing public-sector jobs at civil legal services organizations in 2004 compared to $120,000 for first-year associates in private firms of 500 attorneys or more, according to a national salary survey by the National Association for Law Placement. Annual tuition and fees at Boalt currently are $21,531 for in-state students and $33,776 for nonresidents.