Record number of law students receive grants for summer public interest work for third straight year

Friday, May 10, 2019

For the third year in a row, a record number of law students is able to perform legal work in summer public interest positions around the globe due to increased support from a variety of sources. This summer, approximately 90 – the most University of Georgia School of Law students ever – will benefit from roughly $132,000 in fellowships and grants from 13 funding sources, which represents another high.

“It was incredibly rewarding to be able to provide funding for so many deserving students who want to gain legal experience while helping others,” Associate Dean for Clinical Programs and Experiential Learning Eleanor “Ellie” Crosby Lanier said. “I am amazed at the breadth of the placements the students secured and am thankful we were able to find funding for all eligible applicants.”

A rising third-year student said his fellowship will allow him to pursue a career in public interest environmental law. “This Fellowship will significantly relieve my financial burden for the summer, which will allow me to focus on keeping our country healthy and pollution-free [at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance], rather than worrying about how I will make ends meet,” he said.

Serving state and society is an important part of being a lawyer, according to Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge. “This summer our students will be exposed to real-world legal work and challenges relating to a variety of interests and causes, and they will return to the law school in the fall with fresh perspectives that will shape their future careers as lawyers. I am grateful to our alumni and alumnae and other supporters for allowing this record number of students to supplement their first-rate legal training in the classroom with hands on experience, both which contribute to the school’s vision of being the best return on investment in legal education today.”  

Some students will be working in courts and nonprofits throughout Georgia and the rest of the country, serving alongside prosecutors and public defenders, representing low-income clients in civil cases, and supporting front-line attorneys to provide help to those unable to afford a lawyer, according to Lanier.

A few of the Georgia placements include the district attorney’s offices in Greene County, Douglas County and the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit in addition to public defender offices in DeKalb County, Hall County and the Cherokee Judicial Circuit as well as the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Other work sites include the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Labor, the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, the Memorial Health University Medical Center and the Open Society Justice Initiative.

Five new monetary sources helped bolster the funding for fellowships by approximately $50,000 over last year’s high of $83,000. Among the new initiatives supporting summer public service work is The Be Kind Fund, in memory of Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines. The inaugural Be Kind Fellow will work at the Georgia Supreme Court this summer.