Scholarships and Funding


Stanford provides academic, summer and post-graduate financial assistance to students committed to public interest practice. This reflects our institutional commitment to ensuring equal access to the legal system. It also recognizes the significant disparity in pay between private and public interest practice.

Summer Funding

All Stanford law students who qualify for financial assistance are guaranteed to receive a summer stipend if they work at a government agency or non-profit in a law-related endeavor designed to further the public interest. First-year students receive $5,000 grants and second-year students who are doing a second summer in public interest law receive $7,500 grants. Joint-degree and JSD students may participate for a maximum of three summers.

2015 Summer Public Interest Funding application form

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Stanford Summer Public Interest Funding program?

Stanford Law School has made a strong commitment to ensuring our students and our alumni can pursue careers in public interest law. Our Summer Public Interest Funding Program provides $5,000-$7,500 grants to students with financial need who intern at a nonprofit organization or governmental agency in a law-related endeavor designed to further the public interest. The Law School expects students to work full-time for at least 10 weeks, but exceptions can be made for students unable to work that amount (which will mean a pro-rated grant). Some private public interest firms may also be eligible after review by Levin Center staff. Academic research (i.e., serving as a research assistant to a faculty member) and judicial externships are not eligible for these grants. Interning with a law school clinical program is considered equivalent to interning for a nonprofit organization. Most students receive $5,000 grants, though second-year JD students who worked in public service during their first-year summer will receive $7,500. For purposes of the enhanced 2L grant, judicial externships count as public service employers. Each year more than 100 students participated in this program.

Funding for this program is provided by the Law School and its Federal Work-Study funds. While many upper-class students continue to refer to this program as "SPILF funding," the Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation no longer supports the summer funding program.

Who is eligible to receive summer funding?
All law students who will still be enrolled after the summer ends (e.g., 1Ls, 2Ls, joint degree students who haven’t yet graduated from the Law School, and JSD students) with financial need are eligible. Students who are graduating and will not return to the Law School after the summer ends are ineligible. Joint-degree students and JSD students are eligible to participate for three summers of public interest funding. Note that JD students can only receive the enhanced $7,500 grant once.
How do you determine financial need?

The Financial Aid office determines whether students are eligible to participate. If you qualify for the full Perkins loan and at least $8,500 in unsubsidized federal loans, you are eligible to participate. The Financial Aid office cannot confirm until you have submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2016-2017 school year. Please submit your FAFSA via the website and make sure you apply for the upcoming academic year. You will need to complete your 2015 tax return before you can submit your FAFSA.

Please note that if you are not a U.S. citizen (and thus unable to receive federal subsidized loans), you may still be eligible to receive funding from SLS directly. Please submit to the Financial Aid office a narrative listing expected 2016 income, expected cash as of 9/1/2016, estimated amount of all other assets including value of any primary or secondary residences, 2016 estimated spousal income and assets if any, number in the household and number in the household who is enrolled in college at least 1/2 time.

How do I apply?
The application is available on our website. It is a registration form that confirms your participation for the upcoming summer and grants Levin Center staff permission to confer with Financial Aid regarding your financial need. The deadline is usually in early April after almost all students have confirmed their summer internship plans.
What if I don't have an offer by the deadline?
Students are not required to have accepted an offer at the time of application. All students who anticipate that they may want the summer stipend must apply. You may withdraw if your plans change but we will NOT accept late applications. You do not need to submit documentation verifying your internship until May at the earliest. Some students finalize their offers even later. However, funds cannot be disbursed until all the required documents are received.
Can I still participate if my employer or another program offers some funding?
Students are still eligible to participate in Stanford's program provided that the other funding source does not exceed a combined total of $10,000. Any outside funds above $10,000 will result in loss of funds from this program, as we allow a maximum of $10,000 income from all sources for the summer. We consider all income, including a second job as an LSAT prep instructor, a scholarship intended to support summer expenses, etc. Note that some scholarships are intended to support school-year expenses so we will ignore those funds. As an example, if you receive an outside scholarship or your employer offers you $6,000, we will reduce our $5,000 grant to $4,000 to keep you under the $10,000 cap. Non-cash compensation (e.g., a free BART/Metro pass) will not impact your stipend.
How will receiving additional income for summer expenses affect my financial aid package?
Any income over $6,000 in the three summer months immediately preceding the academic year will impact your financial aid package. Excess funds above $6,000 are subject to a formula that increases the expected student contribution. Normally, your expected student contribution is based on any income or assets, except that income of $6,000 and less is NOT subject to the formula. For example, if you earn $7,500 total for the summer, 57% of the extra $1,500 is now going to be part of the expected student contribution—which may reduce the amount of grants you receive.
What kind of organization qualifies for summer funding?
This determination will be made on a case by case basis. Qualifying organizations may include domestic 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations or international tax-exempt non-governmental organizations that provide legal services for underrepresented communities or otherwise serve the public interest, government entities, and some private public interest law firms. Judicial externships and non-profits that serve the general private sector (e.g., StartX) are not eligible for summer funding. The purpose of this funding program is to provide law students the opportunity to explore potential future careers in public service and public interest law, and therefore internship opportunities outside of these areas will generally not be funded. If you are uncertain whether your potential employer will qualify, please submit a written request via email to Holly Parrish.
Why are judicial internships excluded from this program?
The Law School has limited funds available for this program and chose to prioritize nonprofit and government positions over judicial externships. The goal of this program is to support students' efforts to explore potential career paths and judicial clerkships are rarely permanent positions. Students who serve in a judicial externship during their 1L summer are eligible for the enhanced 2L grant during their 2L summer.
Are international positions eligible?
Yes, international positions are eligible for funding under the same eligibility guidelines. There is also an additional fund offering supplemental grants to those interning abroad. Titi Liu will coordinate that process separately.
Why must I work on-site?
The purpose of the Summer Public Interest Funding program is to both provide students with experience in, and encourage students to explore future career options in, public service and public interest law. We believe these goals are best met when students work on site so they can fully familiarize themselves with that field of law, that organization, and the people who work in that field and at that organization. In addition, in the past, some students have taken advantage of off-site internship arrangements to pursue their own academic research or other personal goals.
What if I cannot work the whole 10 weeks?
The Law School expects students to work full-time for at least 10 weeks. However, if there is a legitimate reason you cannot work the full 10 weeks, we can make exceptions and pro-rate your summer funding. Please contact Levin Center staff.
Can I earn more money if I work more than 10 weeks?
Unfortunately, the Law School does not have the funds to offer more money to students who work more than 10 weeks of work. However, you can apply those excess hours toward earning Pro Bono Distinction by submitting a Pro Bono log.
How do I get paid?
Some students will be asked to participate in the Federal Work Study program. This will require additional paperwork as students must be added to the Stanford University payroll and then submit timesheets every two weeks. Other students who are ineligible for Federal Work Study—non-U.S. citizens, those working overseas, and those working for many governmental agencies—will be paid via Direct Deposit.
Why do some students have to be paid through Federal Work Study and adhere to additional procedures to receive funding?
We realize and commiserate that Federal Work Study requirements can be onerous, but Federal Work Study Funds make up at least $150,000 of SLS Summer Public Interest Funding each year. If the Law School does not make use of those funds, it does not have access to them the following year. Federal Work Study funds allow 30 to 40 students to intern at public interest organizations each year, and so we believe it is worth all the effort.

Scholarship Applications

The following awards are presented each spring at the law school’s annual Public Interest Celebration.

Lisa M. Schnitzer Memorial Scholarship

The family and friends of Lisa M. Schnitzer, a first-year Stanford Law School student who died in a car accident in 1987, established this scholarship to be a lasting tribute to her and in recognition of her deeply-held commitment to helping others, particularly those less fortunate. Each spring, the $3,000 scholarship is awarded to a female first-year student who has demonstrated a strong commitment to helping the disadvantaged, who meets the Office of Financial Aid’s criteria of financial need, and who will work for a nonprofit organization or government agency during the summer following her first year.

2015 Application

The Deborah L. Rhode Public Interest Award

Deborah L. Rhode, the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, has endowed this award, which is presented annually to a graduating student (or a team of graduating students) who has demonstrated outstanding nonacademic public service during Law School. The Rhode Public Interest Award recognizes graduating students who have made outstanding contributions to underrepresented groups or public interest causes outside the Law School and/or in public service at the Law School. Individuals and teams may be nominated by other students, faculty, staff, or self-nominated.  The $3,000 award is given on the basis of merit; all 3L students who meet the award criteria, regardless of financial need, may be nominated.

2015 Application

Justice John Paul Stevens Fellowships

The Justice John Paul Stevens Foundation generously established the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship Program to support four Stanford Law School students committed to public service.  Stevens Fellowships provide financial assistance to students who will spend their summer volunteering at a public interest organization or governmental agency. First- and second-year students with financial need who meet all requirements for our internal Stanford Law School summer public interest funding grant are eligible to apply. The Stevens Fellowship will be in place of the typical $5,000 SLS grant.

2015 Application

Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Stanford Law School’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) provides financial aid to graduates who pursue public interest or government service careers. In 1987, Stanford Law School was the first law school in the country to launch such a program. Today, it still sets the standard for law schools that have followed its lead.
Stanford’s commitment to guaranteeing career choices for its graduates is demonstrated by LRAP’s success. The program reflects one of the school’s key values: that public service is a worthy pursuit and that lawyers have a professional obligation to participate in public service throughout the course of their careers.

For those graduates who take public interest or public sector jobs and have need-based educational debt, Stanford Law School will lend funds to eligible applicants to help meet their monthly educational loan payments. If the graduate remains for three or more years in qualifying public interest employment, a portion of the loans made by the Law School may be canceled. Up to 100% of funds loaned may be forgiven.

Latest Terms

Other Funding Support

Postgraduate Fellowships

Stanford Law School funds several postgraduate public interest fellowships for recent Stanford Law School JD graduates. These fellowships help our JD alumni launch their public interest careers through a paid one-year fellowship in a law-related endeavor designed to further the public interest.

The Levin Center administers two of the programs. We provide each Fellow with a $45,000 salary and the same fringe benefits to which an employee of the host organization would be entitled. SLS’ Loan Repayment Assistance Program will provide additional funds to meet educational loan repayment obligations during the fellowship year. Only SLS JD alumni are eligible to apply for these two programs:

Conference Assistance

Each year, the Center provides financial support that assists students to attend relevant conferences and symposia around the world. Students have received up to $400 each for travel expenses.

Pro Bono Project Support

The Levin Center’s commitment to public service is also manifested through its financial assistance to students who incur expenses related to their volunteer efforts. Over the past few years, we have sent students to assist clients and organizations in New Orleans, LA; Miami, FL; and San Diego, CA over the winter and spring breaks.

Students have received up to $750 each for travel expenses.