Harvard Law School today announced that the Ford Foundation has committed to fund a new initiative administered by the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising, enabling 25 HLS students to work in the field of public interest law in summer 2013.

Open to current 1L and 2L students, the inaugural Ford Foundation Law School Public Interest Fellowship Program will provide up to 100 fellowships in its inaugural year. The program will connect accomplished law students to substantive, 10-week placements with the foundation’s grantee organizations around the world, working to improve the lives of others through legal analysis, litigation and public policy advocacy.

Said HLS Dean Martha Minow: “At a time when fellowships and other resources for supporting public interest legal work are under greater pressure than ever, the Ford Foundation has stepped in and provided this superb support for law students here and elsewhere and, just as importantly, to the people they will serve through these fellowships. We are immensely grateful for this new support, and we look forward to terrific accomplishments, service and collaboration with our grantee partners.”

Those selected for the fellowship will receive $15,000; the first class of students will begin their fellowships in the summer of 2013.  Working closely with lawyers and advocates, the students will be exposed to a variety of diverse settings and gain insight into social justice issues.

“This program opens up a new pathway for law students to gain practical and transformative experience working on many of the defining social justice issues of our age,” said Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation. “We believe it will offer them invaluable knowledge and understanding that will inform their careers whether public or private, while bringing fresh talent to organizations working to advance fairness and freedom.”

The program, a new part of the Ford Foundation’s Social Justice Fellowships Initiative, is also funding up to 25 fellowships each at Yale Law School, New York University School of Law and Stanford Law School. The foundation has made an initial commitment of up to $1.75 million for the fellowships for the first year.

“We are delighted that Ford is making such an important effort to connect fabulous law students with an amazing array of grantees,” said Alexa Shabecoff, assistant dean for Public Service and director of the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA). “At HLS we have so many idealistic, skilled and smart students who will benefit from this program while bringing their considerable talents to the grantee organizations, ultimately benefitting the communities those grantees serve.”

The fellowship program will be administered at HLS by OPIA Associate Director Lisa D. Williams.

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 75 years it has worked with courageous people on the front lines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.