FUNDING PUBLIC INTEREST WORK
The Law School encourages public interest and public service and is committed to helping students obtain funding for summer, postgraduate and permanent public interest and public service legal work. Keep in mind that the single most important factor public interest organizations seek in applicants' backgrounds is a demonstrated commitment to public service. Therefore, involvement in unpaid pro bono activities actually enhances the chance of getting paid positions, either during the academic year, in the summer, or after graduation. Below are examples of public interest funding opportunites:
Grants, Fellowships and Scholarships
The Maida Public Interest Scholars Program is made possible through the generosity of James and Dr. Sharon Maida. Established in 2015 to acknowledge, support and sustain public interest legal work by students and graduates of Rutgers Law School, the Maida Public Interest Scholars Program supports Maida Summer Fellowships and the Maida Post-Graduate Public Interest Fellowship.
Through a variety of activities, including the Annual Spring Auction, the Association for Public Interest Law (APIL) raises funds to support students in various public interest efforts, such as Alternate Spring Break (ASB) and unpaid summer public interest employment.
Several regional funding opportunities are also worth pursuing. The New Jersey Summer Public Interest Legal Intern Fellowship Program is one, and it funds summer employment in public interest organizations throughout the State.
Pennsylvania Legal Services offers the Martin Luther King, Jr. Summer Internship Program, which awards paid legal internships to first and second year law students to participate in legal services work in programs across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Peggy Browning Fund awards 31 grants to first and second year law students from eligible institutions; to work in labor related organizations. Equal Justice Works provides law students with the opportunity to earn an education award voucher for spending the summer in a qualifying internship at a non-profit, public interest organization. Equal Justice Works awards can be combined with other funding, though not with APIL grants.
One of the best ways to fund postgraduate public interest employment is through fellowship programs such as Equal Justice Works, Skadden, Independence and others. Application dates are usually in the first semester, and students returning for their third year of law school should consider applying at that time. Rutgers students have been successful in receiving Independence Foundation, Equal Justice Foundation and Skadden awards.
Perhaps the best way to start your fellowship search is by going to PSLawNet, which contains extensive information about fellowships nationwide, and also includes a deadline calendar.
Contact the Assistant Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest Programs and the Career Planning office for further information on these and other programs.
LOAN REPAYMENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (LRAP)
In 2003, Rutgers law students voted overwhelmingly in favor of establishing a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) to provide financial assistance to help defray law school debt obligations for law school graduates choosing lower paid public interest and public service careers.
All graduates from the Class of 2004 and all succeeding classes are eligible if the following criteria are met:
1. the graduate is employed in a law- related public interest position
2. the graduate has an income below the salary cap set annually by the LRAP Advisory Committee ("Committee")
3. the graduate is actively paying on the loan
The qualifying income level is $55,000 for a single filer and $87,500 for joint filers.
Rutgers-Camden uses a broad definition of public interest. All graduates employed in full-time positions with legal services and other non-profit legal services organizations, and with local, county, state or federal governmental entities are eligible for our LRAP. A judicial clerkship is not qualifying employment. However, if after the completion of the clerkship, the graduate accepts employment in the public interest sector, he or she is encouraged to apply for LRAP.
The salary cap will be determined by the Committee, which includes student, faculty and staff representatives. All eligible applicants will receive a proportional share of the funds available in each awarding cycle. The LRAP program intends to contribute between 15-25% of the graduates' annual debt payment, and thus far has been able to exceed that amount.
A refundable student fee charged on each term bill will fund the LRAP. This fee is $25/semester for full-time students, $18.75/semester for part-time students. Other university funds have already been committed, and further funding is being sought.
The LRAP application, Employer Certification, and Lender Verifications are due by April 20, 2016 (do not fax).