David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law & Policy

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For Students – David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy

Overview

Program students arrive at the School with diverse histories and distinctive goals. Some come with a special interest in welfare, immigration, human rights, or the environment, and previously have engaged in work on these issues. Some have spent significant time before or after college working as community organizers, representing low-wage workers, or serving as legislative assistants in state legislatures or in Congress.  Others have worked in business, and have become concerned about the social and economic challenges facing the communities of which they are a part. And still others have done graduate work in biology, finance or anthropology, and then worked for a policy group or in a conservative or liberal think tank.  While Program students vary in age, experience, political viewpoint, and educational and social background, what they typically share in common is post-undergraduate work experience in the public interest, academic success, and a profound commitment to achieving lasting change that transforms people’s lives.

Once here at UCLA School of Law, Program students continue to achieve academically while fully engaging in the life of the School.  Program students are founders and leaders of student organizations and pro bono initiatives such as El Centro Legal, the student organization of volunteer legal clinics that involve more than two-thirds of each first-year class, serve as editors-in-chief of the UCLA Law Review and other journals, and join key committees that help to govern the School. Program students are also actively engaged in the larger Los Angeles community, volunteering with nonprofit organizations and government agencies during the academic year, as well as pursuing summer public interest work with organizations and agencies across the country and abroad.

Financial Support

UCLA School of Law public interest-minded students and graduates have access to financial support through the School and the larger university.  Support is available for incoming students, students working in unpaid (or partially paid) public interest summer positions, graduating students, and graduates engaged in public interest work.

Financial Assistance for Incoming Students

The School of Law’s Office of Financial Aid and the Office of Admissions administer financial assistance programs for incoming law students.

Summer Public Service Fellowship Program

UCLA School of Law maintains one of the most generous law school programs to support students who engage in otherwise unpaid public interest work during the summer.  The School of Law’s Summer Public Service Fellowship Program provides stipends to all eligible students engaged in substantive, law-related public interest summer employment under the supervision of a legal professional in a nonprofit or government setting domestically or abroad.  In summer 2013, approximately 230 students received stipends through the Program to work with more than 150 diverse organizations and agencies.  The Program is administered by the School of Law’s Office of Public Interest Programs .

Additional School of Law Affiliated Funding Programs

The Office of Public Interest Programs also administers a number of additional funding sources supported by donors.  An example is the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship, which honors United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and supports two students engaged in otherwise unpaid summer work that promotes the public interest and social justice values that have characterized the work and career of Justice Stevens.  

Independently or in coordination with the Office of Public Interest Programs, various School of Law Centers, Institutes and Programs also provide financial support to students engaged in summer public interest work in a substantive area of practice aligned with the mission of the specific Center, Institute or Program.

External Fellowships and Grants

There also exists an array of external fellowships and grants to support students working in a public interest capacity during the summer.  The Office of Public Interest Programs maintains information on these funding opportunities and helps students identify and apply for these opportunities.

Funding for Graduating Students

Public Service Fellowships

The School of Law’s Public Service Fellowship Program seeks to support graduating students who have demonstrated a longstanding commitment to public service, enabling them to work with a variety of nonprofit organizations and government agencies, both domestically and abroad.

Professional Opportunity Program Fellowships

Through the Professional Opportunity Program, the School of Law and Liberty Hill Foundation have partnered to establish a one-year fellowship to allow successful Class of 2013 and 2014 candidates the opportunity to work full-time for up to one year with a nonprofit organization, government agency or judge.  Participants are paid monthly stipends

Community Economic Development Fellowship

The School of Law’s Community Economic Development Fellowship provides an opportunity for a graduate to pursue transactional legal work that advances the goals of community economic development in Los Angeles.  The fellowship term is one year and the fellowship placement alternates annually between the community economic development units of Public Counsel Law Center and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. 

Gideon Fellowship

The School of Law’s Gideon Fellowship, the first fellowship of its kind in the country, is a partnership between the School of Law, Gideon’s Promise – a trailblazing organization that trains and places new law graduates and law students in southern public defender offices, and six public defender offices in the South. Beginning with the graduating class of 2014, one School of Law graduate will be selected as the Gideon Fellow, serving as a public defender with one of the School’s six public defender partner organizations and receiving training and mentorship from Gideon’s Promise.  At the end of the one-year Fellowship term, the Fellow will move into a full-time permanent position as a staff public defender with the partner public defender office and continue to receive training and mentorship from Gideon’s Promise.

School of Law New Graduate Opportunity Program

Administered by the Office of Career Services, the New Graduate Opportunity Program funds part-time, temporary work with nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Participating graduates have a unique opportunity to further build their resume and to enhance their legal skills while awaiting Bar results.       

External Fellowships

There is a range of funding opportunities through postgraduate fellowships and government honors programs to support graduating law students, judicial clerks and public interest entrepreneurs seeking entry- and mid-level public interest opportunities. Working closely with the Office of Public Interest Programs, our students have been very successful in securing these exceptionally competitive opportunities.

Funding for Alumni in Public Interest

The School of Law maintains a competitive Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) for graduates working in the public interest.  Under the School’s LRAP, administered by the Office of Financial Aid, graduates can apply to have a portion – and in some cases all – of the debt service on loans they incurred while at the School of Law subject to a forgivable loan from the School.

The School’s LRAP is coordinated with the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Direct Loan Program’s income driven repayment options, enabling the School to enhance its LRAP benefits.

Student Community

It is well known that many students enroll in law school with the intent of pursuing a public interest-oriented career, attracted to law by a desire to help others, improve society and redress injustice. Unfortunately, only a fraction of those with such intentions actually fulfill them, a phenomenon that has drawn extensive commentary, as well as empirical research. Research also points to the importance of involvement in a supportive subculture during law school in maintaining student public interest commitment.

For many Program students and alumni, the Program community has been the singularly most important aspect of their participation in the Program, as well as the aspect most responsible for sustaining their public interest commitment. This vibrant and strong community is comprised of Program faculty and administrators, alumni and, of course, the students themselves.

The Program community is strengthened via three formal mentoring initiatives – each Program student has an advanced student mentor, a faculty mentor and a Program alumni mentor. In addition, a sense of community arises from bonds that develop in the required first- and second-year courses that are exclusive to Program students, as well as from the annual slate of initiatives, activities and programming that bring students together.

The Program continues to be a very close-knit community of committed faculty, administrators, students and a vital network of alumni who are joined as colleagues committed to the pursuit and advancement of social justice.

More Information

Contact Information

H. Catherine Mayorkas
Executive Director,
Public Interest Programs

1411 Law Building
(310) 206-9155
mayorkas@law.ucla.edu