Funding Your Public Interest Career: Fellowships and Other Funding Sources

Funding Your Public Interest Career: Fellowships, Summer Funding, and Other Funding Sources and Options

GW Law School understands that public interest work, whether during the summer, semester, or post-graduation, often presents financial challenges to students and graduates with significant educational debt burden. Below are resources to designed to help make public interest summer positions and careers financially feasible.

Fellowship Programs

Post-graduate fellowships represent one important way that students launch their public interest careers. For project-based fellowships, the applicant, often in conjunction with an organization, proposes a project to address an unmet legal need and applies for funding. Organizations may also advertise potential projects that they would like to sponsor and interview potential fellows to lead the project before applying for funding. Fellowships may also be recurring positions based at specific organizations, or they may be entrepreneurial, designed to fund a new public interest legal organization.

GW Law’s J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Public Service Fellowship Program annually provides financial aid for third-year students (and evening students who have completed at least 56 credits) who agree to work 20 hours per week at public interest organizations in the Washington, DC area during the fall and spring semesters.
Awardees may receive as much as $15,000 in tuition remission through the Field Placement Program. Preference is given to employers who represent, directly or indirectly, indigent individuals or populations, interests that would not otherwise be adequately represented, and environmental organizations.

Summer Funding

The Law School distributes grants to students working in public interest positions over the summer. Separately, the student group Equal Justice Foundation makes grants. GW students may also apply for funding through the KACIF program and other grant/subsidy programs.

The law school awards public interest subsidies for students who work during the summer for a broad range of public sector legal employers, including non-profit organizations and governmental entities (but not including judicial internships). For the summer of 2018, the law school will award a total of $265,000, in 69 subsidies ranging from $3000-5000. In general, awards are made based upon the type of work the student will be doing, the employer, the student’s commitment to public interest, and student GPA, among other factors. The specific student and employer eligibility criteria for the awards are set forth in the application materials. Applications for summer 2018 subsidies are due March 26, 2018, at 5pm. An info session will be held February 7 at 5pm in the FCC.
This student-run organization raises money and awards stipends to students working in unpaid public interest internships. To be eligible for a stipend, students must volunteer at least 18 hours with EJF. Email for more information about volunteer opportunities. Stipend applications will be released March 29, 2018, via the EJF list-serve. Application deadline is April 9, 2018, at 5pm.
This program awards grants ranging up to $3,000 to GW undergraduate and graduate students pursuing internships that are necessarily unpaid (typically with non-profit, governmental, educational and non-governmental organizations that genuinely lack the financial resources to pay salaries or wages to their interns). In order to maximize the number of students who receive funding, awards for internships in the District of Columbia and other U.S. domestic locations typically do not exceed $1,500. KACIF also awards travel subsidies of up to $300 to cover the costs of using public transportation to and from an unpaid internship. For Fall 2018, the deadline is August 1, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.
Through a generous bequest of Louis Levy, GW Law School is pleased to award three grants of $4000 each to students working on First Amendment issues. The application deadline for summer 2018 is March 26, 2018
Equal Justice America offers fellowships of up to $4,000 to students working at organizations that provide direct, civil legal services for the poor.  Application deadline is March 15, 2018.

Equal Justice Works offers AmeriCorps service opportunities for nearly 900 law students seeking to gain public interest legal experience at organizations serving veterans, military families, homeowners facing foreclosure, victims of disaster, or organizations engaged in medical-legal partnerships. Applications are due April 15th

Students who have already secured a position with a qualifying organization can apply directly to Equal Justice Works now. Students still looking for internships should check out this list of organizations seeking candidates and reach out to the contacts listed.

AmeriCorps JD members will join a network of other law students and attorneys already serving in the field, will receive web-based training seminars throughout the summer, and will receive the Segal Education Award of $1,230 after the successful completion of a 300 hour term of service. Click here for more information.

Created in 2012, the Virginia State Bar (VSB) Local Government Fellowship seeks to attract promising future attorneys to the practice of local government law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. To this end, the Board of Governors of the VSB Local Government Section will award a $4,000 fellowship to an outstanding first or second-year law student who has committed to working full-time for a minimum of 10 weeks at a Virginia local government attorney’s office during the summer of 2018, or divide the fellowship between two students working full-time for a minimum of 5 weeks each. The Fellow will also have the opportunity to submit an article on a local government topic or an interview for potential publication in the VSB’s quarterly Journal of Local Government Law. Please apply for this fellowship by April 2, 2018.  The application is available here and a Fellowship Fact Sheet is available here. Questions may be directed to

For the 25th consecutive year, the FCBA Foundation will award stipends to law students through its Law School Summer Stipend Program. The program provides stipends of up to $5,000 to outstanding law students employed as unpaid summer interns in positions with the FCC and other federal, state and local government agencies with a connection to the communications industry (i.e., broadcasting, cable, information technology, television, telephony, satellite, and wireless).

The Law School Summer Stipend Program awards stipends from its FCC Chairman Robert Emmet Lee Scholarship and Internship Fund, and last year provided support to nearly 20 outstanding law students. In addition, the Foundation will select one outstanding intern among those chosen to receive and additional stipend for the summer: The Max Paglin Award. The Foundation considers funding from other sources in making award decisions and generally will adjust its stipend awards so that a recipient’s total funding for the internship will not exceed $7,000.

The deadline for submission of applications is Saturday, March 31, 2018.

There are numerous sources of external funding available to students. Some grants are restricted to certain employers or geographic locations, and others awarded for specific types of work or on the basis of the student’s background.

LRAP Overview

The GW Law Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) helps J.D. graduates in wide variety of public interest positions realize their career goals by providing financial assistance to meet their law school student loan obligations. LRAP provides assistance in the form of annual loans made to assist with loan payments, which are then forgiven completely at the end of the year, provided that the graduate remains in qualifying public interest employment. Awards are determined based on the graduate’s salary and the application of a formula designed to maximize the equity of the distribution of available program funds.

Federal Loan Repayment Assistance

J.D. graduates, regardless of their type of employment, may be eligible for federal loan repayment assistance. The federal government currently offers several potential options, including (1) income-driven repayment plans, which cap loan payments based on the graduate’s income and debt level, but do not require the graduate to be working in a specific type of position; and (2) Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which results in the forgiveness of loan debt for graduates who have worked in qualifying public service positions for a specified period of time. Learn more with the resources listed below.