Wayne State University

Public Interest Law Fellowships

The purpose of the fellowship program is to promote opportunities in public-interest law, ease student financial stresses and offer needed assistance to organizations providing legal services to underserved constituencies.

2014 recipients

Past recipients (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)

Criteria

To be eligible for a fellowship award, an applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Current Wayne Law student/not transferring – The applicant must be a current Wayne Law student and must be enrolled for the following fall semester. The student must be in good academic standing and have at least a cumulative “C” (2.0) average. A student may apply for more than one Public Interest Law Fellowship award during the course of his or her studies at Wayne Law.
     
  • Full-time work with a public-interest organization – The applicant must work either 10 weeks full time for a single public-interest organization (as defined below) or, if the applicant chooses to split the summer between two public-interest organizations, he/she must work five weeks full time at each organization for a total of 10 weeks. Full time is defined as an average of 40 hours per week. A sponsoring public-interest organization must be identified at the time of application.
     
  • Low or no pay – The applicant may receive only minimal funding from the employer.
     
  • Financial need – This must be documented through the current year Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The student has the option of replacing loan funds with the fellowship award.
     
  • Submission of all application materials requested below.
     
  • Confirmation of employment by the sponsoring public interest organization(s).
     
  • Beyond these minimum requirements, the selection criteria will include:
     
    • A demonstrated interest and commitment to public interest and the specific issue/area in which the applicant will be working over the summer (this demonstration may include volunteer experience with Law School student groups).
       
    • How the applicant’s proposed summer job and the community served relate to previous experiences and future goals.
       
    • How the applicant’s proposed employment and the community served relate to his/her broad legal education.

Public-interest organization defined

For purposes of the Public Interest Law Fellowship, a public-interest organization is defined as:

  • A government or intergovernmental institution – Any domestic or foreign government agency, department or office (at the local, state, or federal level), or an intergovernmental organization, is eligible.
     
  • A non-profit organization serving underserved interests – Any non-profit organization that provides legal, policy or advocacy services exclusively to communities or persons that are underserved or underrepresented is eligible.
     
  • A non-profit organization serving community interests (provided that the organization is not otherwise excluded) – Any non-profit organization that provides legal, policy or advocacy services on behalf of the community at large is eligible.

Jobs excluded from public-interest organization definition

The following organizations aren’t considered public-interest organizations and therefore aren’t eligible for fellowship funding (even if they otherwise meet the definition above):

  • Judges and courts – Traditional judicial internships aren’t eligible. However, non-traditional work with a significant public-interest component for a judge, court or tribunal may be considered eligible on a case-by-case basis by the fellowship committee.
     
  • Professors and universities – Academic work for a professor or for a university isn’t eligible. However, work for a university-sponsored legal clinic is eligible.
     
  • Partisan and campaign activities – Work on a political campaign, for a political party or in a partisan capacity isn’t eligible.

Scholarship amount

The 2014 Public Interest Law Fellowship awards will be $3,500 to $4,500. If a student receives an outside financial award or fellowship to fund the same position as a Public Interest Law Fellowship, the Public Interest Law Fellowship award may be reduced by 50% of the value of the outside fellowship.

Amendments (accepting a job that wasn’t included in the original application)

Understandably, the jobs included in a scholarship application are often approximations. Scholarship recipients may ultimately accept jobs that weren’t included in their initial application. If a scholarship recipient is awarded a fellowship, then he/she may accept one of the jobs included in his/her initial application.

If the scholarship recipient accepts a different job (including a job with one of the organizations he/she specified but in a different office or with different duties), then he/she must amend his/her application. The fellowship committee then will evaluate that amended application and notify the applicant of the decision within seven days.

Cancellation

A Public Interest Law Fellowship may be cancelled or reduced if the scholarship recipient accepts a different job that doesn’t qualify as public service as defined above or doesn’t complete the required weeks of employment. If a student receives an outside financial award or fellowship to fund the same position as a Public Interest Law Fellowship, the Public Interest Law Fellowship award may be reduced by 50% of the value of the outside fellowship.

The student is required to notify the Law School Career Services Office if the public-service work assignment cannot be completed. If the required weeks of employment cannot be completed, the fellowship committee will evaluate and notify the applicant of any decision to reduce or cancel the award. Further, the student may be liable to return funds to the university.

Selection

The Public Interest Law Fellowship Committee, appointed by the dean, selects and awards Public Interest Law Fellowship scholarships based on the application. Past winners are eligible for consideration.

The application requirements are:

  1. Applicant information
     
    • Name and address
       
    • Phone number (preferably cell phone) and email
       
    • Current transcript; an unofficial transcript is acceptable
       
    • Current resume (three pages maximum)
       
    • Personal statement (500 words maximum) – Provide any information that will aid the committee in assessing experience, personal and professional goals, and commitment to public service. The statement should address the selection criteria, which will include:
       
      • A demonstrated interest and commitment to public interest and the specific issue/area in which the applicant will be working over the summer (this demonstration may include volunteer experience with Law School student groups).
         
      • How the applicant’s proposed summer job and the community served relate to previous experiences and future goals.
         
      • How the applicant’s proposed employment and the community served relate to his/her broad legal education.
         
  2. Job information (Note: Applicants may include up to two potential jobs in the application.)
     
    • Organization contact information (organization/employer’s name, address, phone number, email, website and a contact person.
       
    • Job description (200 words maximum) – For each organization/employer, describe the organization’s work and mission, and the work the applicant will likely do over the summer.
       
    • Name, email address and phone number of the applicant’s legal supervisor at the organization.
       
    • Status of job offer (e.g., Do you have a confirmed job offer or have you merely submitted an application, etc.?)
       
    • Disclosure of additional outside financial support for the job, if any (e.g., Have you applied for additional outside funding for the position? If so, what is the status of that funding? What is the amount of that funding?)
       
    • Letters of support from an organization/employer, while optional, will be considered by the committee.
       
  3. Authorization to review academic information for purposes of determining scholarship eligibility – The student must explicitly state that her/his academic information may be reviewed for purposes of determining scholarship eligibility.

Application

Funding and award payment

The fellowship is a departmental award and will be funded by the Law School at the dean’s discretion. The award amount will be applied to the student’s account balance in a lump sum at the end of the current winter semester.

Student responsibilities

If a student receives outside funding for the same position that is funded by a Public Interest Law Fellowship, the student must notify the Office of Career Services.

Students receiving a fellowship award must return a Final Report form and attach a written narrative, as described in the Final Report form. Timely submission of a final report is a requirement of the Public Interest Law Fellowship program.

The Final Report form will be available to other Wayne Law students to assist in their public-interest law job searches. The fellowship recipient also may agree to make the written narrative available to other Wayne Law students.

The written report must be submitted by Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, to:

Wayne Law Career Services Office
471 W. Palmer St.
Suite 1265
Detroit, MI 48202

Public Interest Law Fellowship Committee

The committee is appointed by the dean, and the dean reserves the authority to make all final decisions regarding the award of Public Interest Law Fellowship scholarships. The dean will strive to appoint a committee with faculty, alumni and student representation. The students on the committee won’t have access to transcript or financial aid information of other students.

The committee will evaluate the applications and award the scholarships, subject to the dean’s reserved authority to make all final decisions.

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