The Public Service Initiative (PSI) was offered as a pilot program for students admitted during the 2009 admissions season or earlier. Students admitted after September 1, 2009 are eligible for a successor initiative, the Public Service Venture Fund, to support public service work.
To qualify for PSI grants, eligible students earn “public service points” by engaging in activities that prepare them for public service. At least one summer in a public service job is required, and Summer Public Interest Funding guidelines for eligible jobs will apply. Students must work a minimum of 8 weeks in a public service job to meet the “one summer” PSI requirement.
Students can earn remaining points from a range of choices. A substantial commitment to public service will be required to accrue enough points to qualify, but students will have flexibility in deciding what types of activities to pursue and will be able to receive the PSI grant prior to earning the necessary points as long as they will be able to meet their point requirement prior to graduation. Students earn points for the following public interest related activities.
Summer Public Interest Employment
Students can earn 5 points for each week worked in a full-time public service summer job, to a maximum of 40 points per summer. To earn points, the work must meet the Summer Public Interest Funding guidelines for eligible summer jobs. Students working four or more weeks but fewer than eight weeks in a public service summer job can receive 5 points per week worked, but this employment is not ordinarily eligible for Summer Public Interest Funding.If you work at a summer position for which you do not receive SPIF you will need to submit documentation to the PSI office in order to receive points for that position; email us directly for details on how to document that position for PSI purposes. A maximum of 80 points (accumulated over two summers) will be awarded for summer employment.At least one summer of public interest employment is required to qualify for a PSI grant, and students must work a minimum of 8 weeks in a public service job to meet the “one summer” PSI requirement.
Public Service Clinical Programs
Ten points per clinical credit can be earned through completion of an approved public service clinical program during the academic year. For example, completion of a two-credit public service clinical earns 20 points. There is no limit on the number of points that can be earned through clinical programs. A PSI approved clinical is any clinic where the work is in a non-profit organization, a government agency (or the overseas equivalent), a law firm on a pro bono basis, or any other work defined as public service work in this Initiative. Most private sector clinical placements (e.g. the Sports Law Clinic) will not qualify. Contact the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs for more information.
Student Practice Organizations (SPO’s)
Five points will be awarded for each twenty hours of confirmed work with an SPO during an academic-year semester. There is no limit on the number of points that can be earned through SPO work. Work at these SPOâ€™s can qualify for points: Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP), Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), Harvard Defenders, Harvard Mediation Program, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, Recording Artists Project (RAP), and Law and International Development Society (LIDS).
Pro Bono work
Ten points can be earned for each 40-hour block of pro bono service during the academic year. There is no limit on the number of points that can be earned through pro bono work, but such work must be confirmed by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. To avoid duplication, pro bono points will not be awarded for pro bono work that also earns clinical points, SPO points, or summer public interest job points. Contact the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs for more information.
Faculty-Sponsored Public Service Projects
Five points can be earned for an unpaid faculty-sponsored public service project. A student can earn up to 5 points from any faculty member, and an overall maximum of 10 faculty-awarded points. Points will not be awarded for work that also earns pro bono, clinical, SPO, or summer public interest job points.
PSI Community Events Sponsored by OPIA
One point can be earned for attending an OPIA-sponsored event specifically identified as eligible for PSI credit, up to a maximum of 10 points. Points will not be awarded for partial attendance at any event.
Note: the administrators of the Public Service Initiative will make every effort to track the accumulation of PSI points, but in the event of discrepancies the burden of documenting public service activities will fall to the student.
Joint Degree and Transfer Student Eligibility
Joint degree candidates and transfer students can qualify for PSI grants if they spend at least one summer in a qualified public service job and accumulate enough points to qualify. Only transfer students admitted prior to September 1, 2009 are eligible for the PSI. Level of benefits eligibility of joint degree and transfer students is determined by year of JD enrollment. Year of enrollment for transfer students will be the year they began law school, not the first year at HLS.
Students in approved joint/concurrent degree programs will be eligible for the PSI benefit. The benefit will be awarded in the final year of a joint/concurrent degree program, or in the final year for which at least 50% of the standard HLS tuition rate for that year is charged. The PSI grant will be awarded up to the actual amount of tuition charged by all Harvard schools to the student, or the standard HLS tuition rate for that year, whichever is less. In no case will the combination of need-based grant and PSI grant awarded exceed the standard HLS tuition charge for that year. Information regarding joint degree and concurrent degree programs is available on the Special Programs page.
HLS students who study away (such as Third Year Visiting and Berkeley Exchange students) for the 3L year are also eligible for the PSI, but PSI Grants will be awarded only to cover actual tuition charges up to the level of the standard HLS tuition rate for the year. Tuition or fees charged by the host school beyond the level of HLS tuition will not be covered by the PSI grant. Third Year Visiting students from other law schools are not eligible for the PSI.