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Summer Fellowship Aid/SPIF

Summer Public Interest Fellowship (SPIF) Overview

Yale supports one of the most expansive programs of summer public interest work in the law school world. In the summer of 2014 , we provided fellowships for 160 students through the Summer Public Interest Fellowship (SPIF) program. We will continue this program for the summer of 2015, supporting Yale students working in public interest, government, and not-for-profit organizations.

"As an older student with previous educational and asset debt, the impulse was strong to prioritize the financial benefits of working at a firm over the valuable public interest experiences that would help me as an aspiring civil rights lawyer. SPIF not only allayed those fears for me, it helped me to make a contribution to a public interest organization working with meager means, in addition to allowing such organizations to benefit from the unique talent and drive of YLS students. While my summer colleagues struggled to obtain funding for their work, I felt extremely lucky to have SPIF on my side." Viviane Scott, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2014

In the summer of 2014 SPIF awards supported YLS student work at 121 diverse organizations and agencies including:

American Civil Liberties Union
Alaska Public Defender Agency
Bronx Defenders
The Clinton Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Equal Justice Center
European Court of Justice
Federal Trade Commission
Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders
Innocence Project of Florida
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
Department of Justice
Institute for Justice
New Haven Food Policy Council
New York Attorney General's Office
Orleans Public Defenders
Pacific Legal Foundation
Southern Center for Human Rights
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
U.S. Senate
U.S. Attorney General Office
White House- Domestic Policy Council- Native American Affairs
World Bank

SPIF Eligibility

We define the program broadly to include as many opportunities as possible. Work in federal, state, and local government and with not-for-profit organizations with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status qualifies for SPIF. Please note that funds are not available for judicial clerkships since this opportunity is broadly available to Yale students after graduation without prior clerkship experience and because of the University’s 501(c)(3) status, SPIF funds are not available for work on political campaigns. For positions outside the United States, it is impossible to define a precise eligibility standard, but in general, governmental entities and those entities that would be 501(c)(3) organizations if they were located in the United States will qualify. Other work, such as legal work for unions, may qualify, but you should not assume that it does absent an affirmative ruling by the Financial Aid Office. To guide your job search and selection process, you may request an advisory ruling on whether the organization qualifies by giving the Financial Aid Office a description of the organization. Particular positions are eligible provided that the organization does not pay other similarly-situated summer interns.

Example 1: Research assistants generally are not eligible for SPIF because most universities pay other research assistants.
Example 2: If Government Agency XYZ has a policy that it will pay summer interns who are 2Ls, but not those who are 1Ls, 1L interns would be eligible for SPIF.

Student Eligibility
Student eligibility for the program is based on financial need.

Automatic Eligibility
— Students who are receiving financial aid grants from the Law School;
— Students who have completed the FAFSA and have demonstrated financial need. The FAFSA will calculate the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) and if this number is at or below the total cost-of-attendance, a student is eligible to receive SPIF funds (refer to the Student Aid Report (SAR)).

If a student does not qualify for summer grant assistance and if a student's budget allows, borrowing additional loans can be an option. These loans are eligible to be covered by COAP, our loan forgiveness program, after graduation. Students may receive SPIF funding for two summers. Funding is not available for the summer after graduation. Joint degree students must be enrolled in the Law School for either the semester before or the semester after the summer fellowship.

SPIF Funding

Summer public interest work is such an important and valuable experience for Yale students so the Law School has guaranteed that a SPIF fellowship will be at least $6,000 (pro-rated at $500 per week for up to 12 weeks). Volunteering for SPIF – SC, (Student Contribution) Fundraising, increases a SPIF award based on the money raised by the fundraisers throughout the academic year and is matched by Yale Law! Students may also receive outside funding from grants, stipends from their public interest employer, additional jobs, etc., and SPIF grants will be adjusted so that the total earnings for the summer do not exceed the $6,000 maximum.

SPIF-SC conducts fundraisers throughout the year to raise money to supplement SPIF funding. The amount of the supplement depends on the amount of money participating students raise. In order to receive the SPIF-SC supplement, students must make a substantial contribution to organize one of the fundraisers. A student must volunteer for one of the fundraisers to receive the increased award (AND receiving SPIF funds) based on SPIF-SC's policy. SPIF-SC will send out information regarding the fundraising throughout the academic year.

Split Summers
Please note that you may only receive a total of 12 weeks of funding from the Law School for SPIF, Schell, Linkages or other Law School programs. Students who split the summer between a public interest organization and a private law firm, generally are not eligible for SPIF funding because the earnings will be more than the $6,000 maximum allowed summer budget.

Application & Payment

The process of applying for SPIF has two parts. The first part is a simple, non-binding statement of interest that will hold a fellowship for you if you are eligible and accept a qualifying position. You do not need to have a job in order to complete Part I.
Part I must be submitted by February 1, 2015 in order for you to be eligible for summer funding.
Upon receipt of Part I, we will review your eligibility for funding, notify you of the outcome and distribute Part II of the application.

Part II of the application will ask for specific information about the actual position you have obtained. The form must be submitted by March 15, 2015.
If you cannot meet these deadlines, contact The Financial Aid Office to make alternate arrangements—otherwise you will not be eligible for SPIF funding.

For those seeking Schell Center Kirby Simon Summer Fellowships, please contact Schell Center at (203) 432-7480 or schell.law@yale.edu. Those seeking Schell Center Kirby Simon Summer Fellowships for international human rights work MUST complete SPIF Part I of the application AND must complete the Schell Summer Fellowship Application which replaces Part II of the SPIF Application.

SPIF Funds will be disbursed in one lump sum in a paper check in the beginning of May 2015, just before the summer employment position begins (new policy rule for SPIF). Further information on where to pick up checks will be forthcoming in spring 2015.