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Harvard Law School has launched a program that combines start-up financing with financial assistance for public interest law graduates. The new Public Service Venture Fund will divide $1 million per year among qualified graduates who start their own nonprofit organizations or seek jobs at government agencies or public interest groups. “This fund is inspired by our students’ passion for justice,” Dean Martha Minow said in a written statement. “It’s an investment that will pay dividends not only for our students but also for the countless number of people whose lives they will touch during their public service careers.” Harvard has made several changes to its public interest assistance programs in recent months. In November, the school announced its Holmes Public Interest Fellowship Program, which will provide as many as one dozen 2010 graduates with stipends of up to $35,000 to work in public interest law for one year. Those fellowships will be available only to students who have proven that their attempts to land a job or fellowship have failed. The following month, the school announced that it would suspend its Public Service Initiative. Under that program — which Harvard launched in spring 2008 — students who committed to public interest work for at least five years following graduation did not have to pay tuition during their third year. The cut was a result of financial difficulties at the school, though the benefit remains available to students graduating through 2012. Students interested in obtaining grants through the Public Service Venture Fund must submit a proposal detailing how they would use the money to launch a public interest law career.

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