Public interest students rejoice — the Georgetown University Law Center updated its guaranteed summer funding program earlier this year, increasing the size of grants available.
“[Georgetown Law] is a very public interest-oriented school,” said Barbara Moulton, assistant dean of the Office of Public Interest and Community Service. “The Dean is well aware that it is very hard for students to do this work, and we do anything we can do to help.”
Grants for 1L summer positions years start at $3,250 and fellowships for second years start at $5,500 — an increase from past years, which guaranteed $3,000 and $3,250 respectively. Students are also eligible for an additional $500 supplement from Equal Justice Foundation, provided they volunteer for two or more hours with the organization.
This is a change from past years — students are no longer required to dedicate volunteer hours to EJF to receive the base level of funding. Any Georgetown Law student with a public interest internship or clerkship is eligible.
The public interest requirement is broad — students can work for any nonprofit or government agency. The funding only covers a very incremental portion of private sector jobs, such as civil rights firms; otherwise, private work is excluded from guaranteed funding, Moulton said.
“The Dean has made a big investment in increasing this program to make it more competitive with the other top 14 schools,” said 2L Gregory Carter, EJF chair. “We want to continue to be a big part of funding the public interest community, because there is so much chaos [in the government] right now.”
“The opportunity to push as many people into public service and help fund those opportunities is a huge, huge, huge piece of why this is such a critical moment,” he said.
The money comes from the operating budget of the Dean, is administered by OPICS and supplemented by funds raised by EJF through various fundraising events, including Thursday’s Candyland Auction.
The auction is an annual event, having taken place since EJF was founded in 1982 — upwards of 30 years ago.
“There’s food, there’s alcohol, there are non-alcoholic drinks, there’s a photo booth, there are people wandering around being silly… — it’s just a mess of people blowing off some steam on a Thursday evening in a way that’s dedicated toward helping pay for public interest programs,” Carter said.
More than 35 professors are participating, having donated activities for auction ranging from wine tasting with Professor Solum to karaoke to a party for ten at Professor Gottesman’s lake house. Professor Wally Mlyniec, whom most students know from his Construction Updates, has donated a walking tour of the construction site adjacent to campus, which made a large amount of money during last year’s auction.
“It’s the same professors giving the same things — for professors and staff, it’s a huge tradition,” Carter said. “Support staff, like campus security, pick a thing and have a bidding war with each other every single year.”
“They have huge pride in giving money to EJF — they don’t necessarily know ‘that’s the summer funding program,’ but they know it’s a public interest organization that helps people afford their public interest work.”
Thursday night’s live auction occurs in concert with a silent auction, taking place Wednesday through Friday. Among items being auctioned off are hotel stays and rinkside seats at a Washington Capitals game, along with other big ticket items.
Carter said the silent auction is an opportunity to raise money from alumni and parents, and it the primary way EJF is seeking to grow the amount of money raised from past years.
“The amount of money you can raise from students is fairly limited,” he said. “To raise more than you’ve raised in the past, [the auction] has to reach parent or alumni networks.”
Last year, the combined auctions raised approximately $12,000. Carter said EJF is on track to raise a similar amount this year.
Due to changes in tax law, EJF transitioned to a $500 per person grant structure. In the past, the organization has simply divided the amount of money raised equally across the pool of people who qualified for the supplement — this year, EJF will award the $500 grants to as many students as funds allow, chosen from a lottery of those who completed two or more EFJ volunteer hours.
“The number of students receiving supplements totally depends on how much money is raised,” Carter said. “We just want students to come out and show how much the public interest community matters to people at this school.”