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September 20, 2013

$1 million for public interest fellowships at Northwestern Law

by Dan Rodriguez

I have noticed a steady increase in the number of Northwestern Law students who are interested in practicing public interest law. But young alumni sometimes have difficulty getting into the field because there is a real shortage of opportunity in the public interest sector, particularly at the entry level.

To help our grads pursue their goals in public service, earlier this year we established the Northwestern Law Public Interest Fellows Initiative. The program supports members of the Class of 2013 who are committed to practicing public interest law: fellowship recipients were chosen based on projects they designed to provide legal services or advocacy to underrepresented clients at a domestic nonprofit agency. The fellowship provides financial support for a one-year period to complete the project.

It was a good first step.

Later in the summer, I had a conversation with Law School alumni Dan Pritzker, JD ’86, at which I learned that he is equally committed to expanding public service options and increasing access to justice in underserved communities. We discussed how post-graduate opportunities for public interest work expand access to justice, while at the same time offering young alumni important entryways to careers in the public interest law sector.

Today, I’m delighted to announce that the Jay Pritzker Foundation has given one million dollars to establish the Jay A. Pritzker Fellowship Program at Northwestern Law. This initiative will support post-graduate public interest work in underserved communities. Several fellows (hopefully as many as a dozen) will be selected annually over a three-year period, with preference given to talented students who demonstrate financial need.

This gift is particularly interesting because it is designed to encourage collaboration: it is a challenge gift, in which donors who make a gift of $25,000 in support of post-graduate public interest fellowships will have their gift matched one to one. We are actively seeking match gifts to expand the reach and scope of this program.

While the short-term benefits of this program are considerable, the long-term benefits are just as important: it will help assure that skilled advocates in the public interest sector are available for years to come.

Please join me in thanking the Jay Pritzker Foundation for their extraordinary generosity and commitment to public service. And if you are interested in making a gift and having it matched, I urge you to get in touch with me!

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