The University of California announced a new fellowship program Wednesday for students pursuing public interest law.
The program, called the UC President’s Public Service Law Fellowship, will contribute $4.5 million annually to the university’s four law schools — at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA and UC Irvine — which will distribute the funds to qualified applicants. The amount of money will be distributed proportionately to the number of students at each of the four law schools.
“The hope is that this will give a huge boost to UC law students who want to pursue public interest legal careers,” said UC spokesperson Kate Moser.
Although each law school manages its admission process independently, the basic qualifications for the fellowship remain the same: The applicant must be going into public interest law and will therefore be serving in either the nonprofit or the government sector.
The funds for the program will be administered to approximately 425 summer and 60 postgraduate fellowships, according to Moser. The summer fellowships will provide each student pursuing public interest law jobs with about $4,000, and the postgraduate fellowships will offer $45,000 to public service-focused graduate students.
UC Hastings will not be included in the fellowship program — although it is also a UC law school — because it operates somewhat independently from other UC campuses, according to Moser.
UC Berkeley School of Law students cited the high cost of law school tuition as a growing concern among students and therefore expressed gratitude for the fellowships.
“Law school is so (costly),” said Alicia Intriago, a third-year campus law student who is going into public interest law. “One of the issues for public interest for a lot of students — and the reason that they go into private work — is that they need the money to pay off their student loans.”
Elaine Kal, a second-year campus law student, added that there is an especially high need for lawyers in the public interest sector because so few students go into public law.
The launch of the program was met with enthusiasm from UC law school deans as well. Both UCLA School of Law Dean Jennifer Mnookin and UC Davis School of Law Dean Kevin Johnson added that the new program fits with the service values of a public institution — a sentiment echoed and emphasized by Melissa Murray, interim dean of Berkeley Law.
“We are a public law school, and this investment underscores that public mission that we’ve always kept in mind and everything that we do here at Berkeley Law,” Murray said. “This investment is not only welcome, it’s completely consistent with our values. And we’re very grateful to President Napolitano for her work on this.”