UVA Law Guarantees Summer Funding for Public Service Jobs Under New Plan

Fall leaves and the front view of UVA Law

In the past three years alone, 292 grants worth more than $1.2 million have been given to students to work in public service jobs over the summer.

October 15, 2015

The University of Virginia School of Law will guarantee funding for qualifying students working in public service jobs over the summer under a new plan for Public Interest Law Association grants.

First- and second-year law students who meet the requirements — including volunteering a minimum number of pro bono and public service hours while in law school — will receive grants of $3,750 and $6,500 before taxes, respectively, to work for public-sector employers.

"This is an important step in the evolution of a program that has encouraged many students to pursue public service, not only during the summer, but after graduation," Dean Paul G. Mahoney said. "We could not have taken it without the support of our alumni."

Starting this year, the student-run Public Interest Law Association will work closely with the school's Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center to administer the grant application process, and the Public Service Center will handle the disbursement of grants.

Most funding for the grants comes from alumni donations through the Law School Foundation. In the past three years alone, 292 grants worth more than $1.2 million have been given to students.

"PILA grants have a long and proud tradition at the Law School. I remember vividly receiving my grant check as a 1L student to work at a public defender's office in the late 1990s," said Assistant Dean for Public Service Annie Kim , director of the Public Service Center. "The program has flourished since then to become one of the best of its kind. I'm so pleased that funding will be accessible to every student who wants to dedicate a summer to public service."

PILA grants began as Student-Funded Fellowships under the Student Bar Association in 1982, when funding was provided to six students. By 1996, the Law School Foundation began matching funds raised by students. In recent years the school has funded every student who qualified for a grant, but it was not guaranteed. Submitted applications were ranked by the PILA board, which also conducted interviews of applicants.

PILA President and third-year law student Reedy Swanson said he expected the new process would be easier for applicants.

"We're thrilled to be able to take much of the uncertainty out of this process," Swanson said. "Students can focus on finding a job without having to worry about whether they'll have financial support when they do."

The Public Interest Law Association typically raises funds through its fall auction, used textbook sale and other efforts that will continue, Swanson said. Students who receive grants donate back 20 hours of service to PILA the following school year.

"We depend on the support of grantees to pay it forward to the next generation of students," Swanson said.

PILA grant application requirements include:

  • First-year law students must complete at least 40 hours of pro bono service (only five of which may be public service hours earned by doing non-legal volunteer work).
  • Second-year students must volunteer 80 hours of pro bono over the course of their first and second years of law school (only 10 of which may be public service hours).
  • Applicants must submit an essay that is 500 words or less.
  • The summer internship must amount to at least 400 hours in a qualifying public service position by the end of summer.

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Grant applications are due by Feb. 19, 2016. Grants will be disbursed by April 15, with some exceptions.

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Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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