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News Posted on April 13, 2016

New Public Service Law Fellowships Available for King Hall Students

UC President Janet Napolitano has announced a first-of-its-kind systemwide fellowship program aimed at helping students at UC Davis School of Law and other UC law schools pursue careers in public interest law.

The President's Public Service Law Fellowships, announced April 13, will award $4.5 million annually to promising law students at King Hall, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, and UCLA. The funding will make post-graduate work and summer positions more accessible for students who want to pursue public-interest legal careers but might otherwise - out of financial need - seek private sector jobs.

"Lawyers who serve the public interest can use the power of the law to effect positive change and strengthen our democracy," Napolitano said. "For the benefit of California and the nation, we want to foster the public-service careers of more UC-educated legal scholars."

The post-graduate fellowships will provide $45,000 for graduates entering public service, plus an additional $2,500 to help defray bar-related costs. The summer fellowships provide each fellow between $4,000 to $4,500 to subsidize summer public-interest law jobs.

In all, the program is expected to provide 424 summer fellowships and 58 post-graduate fellowships for students at the four top-tier law schools.

As part of the fellowship, UC will host an annual conference that brings together legal experts from around the country and across UC to network and share expertise on selected public-service law topics. The annual event, which will be held each year at a different UC law school, will give current and past fellows an opportunity to build a supportive network of public interest lawyers across California and the nation, Napolitano said.

The fellowship program will also help make UC a destination for top law school students who are committed to practicing public interest law.

"Public service has long been a hallmark of UC Davis School of Law. Many of our students are inspired by the principles of service espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for whom the law school building - King Hall - is named," said Dean Kevin R. Johnson. "Thanks to the new public service fellowship program, more students can pursue law in the public interest, providing legal assistance to those who need it the most."  

UC law schools already have a long-standing commitment to public interest law; most students participate in legal clinics that give them hands-on experience serving a variety of clients and causes that have historically lacked access to legal representation.

Napolitano, who earned a law degree from the University of Virginia, announced the new program during a lunchtime event at UCLA School of Law. She told the the assembled crowd that her own career in the public sphere had been extraordinarily rewarding.

"This work is not only fulfilling and challenging, but it is in line with a core tenet of UC's mission: and that is public service," Napolitano said. "This program is exactly what public law schools should be doing - encouraging and supporting students who want to give back to their local communities, the state of California, and the country as a whole."

Each law school will manage its application process and select fellowship recipients. Application details are expected to be finalized within the next few weeks. Program highlights:

  • Post-Graduate Public Service Law Fellowships: The program will provide $45,000 for law school graduates entering public service, plus an additional $2,500 to help defray bar-related costs.
  • Summer Public Service Law Fellowships: The program will provide $4,500 for second-year students and $4,000 for first-year students pursuing summer public service law positions.
  • UC Washington (UCDC) Program: The program will provide funding to enable UC law students to participate in the UC Washington (UCDC) Program - a vital UC program that gives students real-world public service experience in the nation's capital.
  • UC National Public Service Law Conference: The program will culminate each year in a national conference on public service law that rotates among the UC law schools. The conference will showcase important legal scholarship and practice and contribute to the national conversation on public interest law.
  • UC Law Public Service Network: Through the program, fellows will have the opportunities to build relationships with other fellows at their school and across the system, creating a new network of UC public service lawyers who will support each other and future generations of UC law graduates.