Photo: Chris Doyle, 2015 Summer Stipend recipient.

By Allison Tinsey, L'18

Every year, Richmond law students seek summer employment to supplement their classwork, gain work experience, and expand their professional network. Those seeking opportunities in the public sector often struggle to find paid positions — and a lack of funding can stand between a student and a passion for public service.

Since 2005, Richmond Law has given students employed in public sector positions a way to help fund their unpaid experiences through a stipend program available from the Career Development Office (CDO). This year, the CDO revised the program to integrate summer employment with students’ overall legal education experience through the Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program.

“The idea is to promote planning, working, and processing,” said Janet D. Hutchinson, associate dean for Career Development. The fellowship now includes programing and workshops that students must complete before and after their summer job. The programing gives students the chance to make their experiences more meaningful and prepare them for their future careers.

Hutchinson emphasized that the skills developed through the fellowship programing will apply not only to summer positions. “This is an opportunity for practical applications of skills, while also being a gut check. As students gain more information about a career path and skills, they can find out what work they enjoy or don’t enjoy.”

“[I applied for the stipend] knowing that a majority of public interest internships are unpaid,” said Chris Doyle L’17. Doyle took advantage of the funds provided to him through the summer stipend program to work for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. Without the funds, it would have been difficult for Doyle to pursue a public interest job.

“[The program] allowed me to pursue my passion for working with indigent populations without having to worry about my living costs,” said Doyle. “[It] has enabled me to gain valuable legal experience with public interest employers, which will make it much easier for me to obtain 2L summer employment and hopefully a post-graduate position with a public interest organization.”

Currently, students are guaranteed one $3,000 fellowship to be used during either their 1L or 2L summer, but they may reapply for a second fellowship if funds are available. The amount is a $500 increase from previous years.

“I would like any alumni considering giving to the program to know that the stipend allows [Richmond] Law students to not only gain valuable legal experience, giving them an advantage in the job market,” said Doyle, “but it also provides an opportunity for students to help those in the community that may not be able to afford legal services.”

Learn more about the Summer Public Service Fellowships, including application details and requirements.