The Massachusetts Bar Foundation is accepting applications for the sixth year of its Legal Intern Fellowship Program. The program awards stipends to law students who intern for a minimum of 10 weeks during the summer months at non-profit organizations that provide civil legal services to low-income clients in Massachusetts.
Established in 1996, the Legal Intern Fellowship Program's focus is to encourage careers in the law that further the goals of social justice, while contributing legal support to organizations serving the state's indigent population.
In recognition of the continuing demand for experienced legal services attorneys and the increasing debt many law students face, MBF trustees recently voted to double the amount of the stipend from last year's award. Students selected will receive $6,000 for their internships this summer. Through an application process, a committee will select four students to receive awards for the summer of 2002.
"This year's award increase demonstrates the foundation's belief in the importance of this program. We hope these awards will help make internships in legal services financially viable for today's law students," said attorney Steven Wollman, foundation secretary and chairman of the Legal Intern Fellowship Committee.
The MBF Fellows Fund, Smith Family Fund, and the Casey-Coyne Fund support the LIFP. Established together with Massachusetts Bar Foundation in 1964, the MBF Fellows Fund consists of donations from Massachusetts lawyers and judges who serve as fellows to the foundation. Proceeds from the fund are used for initiatives that support the MBF's mission: to improve the administration of justice, promote an understanding of the law, and ensure equal access to the legal system for all residents of the commonwealth. The Smith Family Fund was created as a permanent endowment to the MBF in 1989 to provide legal services to low-income individuals, especially children. The Casey-Coyne Fund was established in 2000 to benefit organizations affiliated with the MBF, particularly those on Cape Cod.
As one of the MBF's most successful initiatives, the Legal Intern Fellowship Program has enabled law students from across the country to put lessons learned in the classroom into practice at organizations across the state.
"I enjoyed my opportunity to interact with clients the most," said Jennifer Hayden, a 2001 MBF fellow who interned at Neighborhood Legal Services in Lawrence.
Organizations hosting interns benefit from the many skills the law students bring, as well as their enthusiasm to learn and their commitment to serve low-income clients. Thien-Nga Nguyen, 2001 MBF fellow, conducted her internship at the Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Massachusetts. While working in the Elder Law Unit, Nguyen found that her clients were often in need of more than her legal skills. Fluent in Vietnamese, Nguyen increased LACCM's capacity to serve Worcester's growing Vietnamese population.
"I walked away feeling that I made a difference this summer," Nguyen said.
Each year, MBF Legal Intern Fellows take on challenging areas of the law in their internships. Katrina Graves, 2001 Smith fellow, tackled issues surrounding MCAS and students with disabilities at the Massachusetts Advocacy Center.
"I found that the work at MAC refined my legal reasoning, writing and advocacy skills. My experience was so positive that I am agreeing to continue with my work [at MAC] as school allows," Graves said.
The Legal Intern Fellowship Program has also led former fellows to careers in legal services. Barbara Kaban, a 1997 Smith fellow, is currently the deputy director of the Children's Law Center of Massachusetts, a non-profit legal advocacy and resource center that offers legal services to indigent children in the commonwealth.
"It is the hope of the MBF trustees that these internship experiences will lead more young lawyers to assume leadership roles in legal services in the future," said Wollman. For more information about the MBF Legal Intern Fellowship Program, call Elizabeth Lynch, grants manager, at (617) 338-0534. Applications are available online at www.massbarfoundation.org. The MBF welcomes contributions to this program.