For the Summer Public Interest Funding program, public interest work is defined as law related positions in government agencies, non-profit organizations, and their international equivalents. Small private firms that primarily work in the public interest might qualify for summer public interest funding, with prior approval. Eligible employment must occur within the sixteen weeks between the last day of exams and the first day of classes (May 18th – September 3rd for 1Ls, May 11th – September 3rd for 2Ls and SJDs).
Please note, it is the policy of the SPIF program that employers pay HLS students the same amount they pay their other summer interns and not refuse to pay HLS interns because of the availability of SPIF. We reserve the right to refuse to fund employment by any organization that does not pay all summer interns equitably.
Please note, judicial summer clerkships (beyond the exception listed below), research assistant positions, jobs for which academic credit is received, public sector jobs that are NOT law related, positions at for-profit entities with the exception of pre-approved private public interest firms, jobs on political campaigns and self-employment DO NOT qualify for SPIF.
Summer Clerkship Eligibility
It has been long-standing policy that, with the very limited exception below, internships with a judge or court are not funded by SPIF. The rationale for this policy is as follows:
- SPIF was created to provide every HLS student with the opportunity to gain exposure to the day-to-day work of public interest lawyers. Interning for a judge provides you with only very limited insight into the range of activities that are involved in such practice
- For students who wish to pursue public interest work after graduation, SPIF also enables them to gain experience that will give them significant advantages in the public interest job search. Summer internships with judges impose the opportunity cost of a summer not spent in a public interest organization or agency, while typically not conferring the employment advantages that a postgraduate judicial clerkship would.
As the sole exception to the policy above, SPIF will fund international war crimes and human rights courts that involve more than one country (e.g. ICTY, ICC, ECCC). This exception exists because these types of courts do not offer paid post-graduate clerkships, and a summer internship may therefore be the only opportunity to experience their work first-hand.
This policy is revisited by the SPIF Committee annually and has not been amended nor have any policy waivers or appeals been considered.
Generally, a private firm can qualify for summer funding if it meets most of these qualifications: it is small, public interest-oriented, pays relatively low starting salaries to attorneys, hires a small number of summer associates (or none), has an equitable summer associate salary structure, and/or has qualified for summer funding in the past.
Please note, even though a a private firm is listed in the public service section of Helios or may have been approved in the past does not guarantee it is an eligible SPIF employer. Changing circumstances within the firm can affect eligibility, so students should always seek pre-approval for these types of positions.
In order to obtain approval for a position at a private public interest firm please contact the SPIF staff with the following information to determine if the firm qualifies as an eligible SPIF employer:
- How many attorneys work at the firm?
- What is the average starting salary for attorneys with the firm?
- How many summer associates are typically employed by the firm?
- If any of the summer associates are paid, what is the pay rate for summer associates?