Alexander Scherr, University of Georgia Law School, Athens, Georgia (Courtesy photo) Alexander Scherr, University of Georgia Law School, Athens, Georgia (Courtesy photo)

UGA Law has more than doubled the number of fellowships it grants for summer public interest jobs over the past two years, driven by increased interest from students and additional resources from alumni-supported funds and other sources.

UGA Law has awarded stipends to 48 rising 2Ls and 3Ls for jobs this summer at groups ranging from the Atlanta Legal Aid Society to Boat People SOS in Thailand. That’s up from 22 students in 2016, when the law school started a push to support these endeavors.

“Students took more initiative to look for positions in the public service sphere, knowing funds were available,” said Alex Scherr, associate dean for clinical programs and experiential learning. Students secured virtually all the jobs on their own, he added.

Thanks to new funding sources, the law school was able to disburse $83,000 this year, an increase from $53,000 in 2016. Stipends range from $500 to $5,000, depending on the fellowship source, and the average grant was about $1,750,

The law school was able to fund every eligible applicant in some amount, Scherr said, noting that stipends do not cover judicial externships.

“I am grateful to our graduates and to our other sources of financial support, which are enabling students to gain real-life legal experience with work that benefits society and helps students build their careers,” he said.

In Georgia, students are working at public defender and district attorney offices, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Other placements are with the Mental Health Project in New York, the Victims Rights Law Center in Boston and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme in Samoa, which protects natural resources for 21 Pacific island nations.

UGA Law had been funding eight to 10 summer public interest fellowships for many years through the student-run Equal Justice Foundation, Scherr said, but it has made a concerted effort to secure more funding and publicize the opportunity with students.

The law school secured three new grant sources this year, for a total of eight, he said, and it’s streamlined the application process so that students use a single application to be considered for all of them.

New funding for five students came from the State Bar of Georgia’s health law section for public health law jobs and from two alumni-supported funds, the Sumner Memorial Fund, for a student working for a Georgia municipality, and the Milner S. Ball Fellowship Fund supporting a student doing immigration law work.

“Seeing our students answer the call to service is very rewarding,” said UGA Law Dean Bo Rutledge in a statement. Part of the law school’s mission, he said, is to connect students “with opportunities for real-world training so they can become future leaders for our state and society.”