The Student Public Interest Law Organization (SPILO) is hosting its Third Annual “Live Justice” Fundraiser this year, with a goal of $5,000. The collected funds will go toward an endowed fund to provide scholarships to students who accept unpaid or underpaid internships, which will ensure Cleveland State University law students feel valued and encouraged to develop a career devoted to creating a more just system.
You can help make a difference in the lives of public interest students!
Please consider donating to help students that make the difficult choice to prioritize service over self. For many future students, this scholarship may be the only opportunity to supplement their income because their internship comes with a menial stipend – or none at all.
Many public interest employers recognize that offering unpaid internships is not an equitable practice and have moved toward offering some compensation for students’ time and effort during the summer. Unfortunately, many of these employers are not able to pay a stipend that amounts to even minimum wage. There are a number of scholarships available to students that accept unpaid internships, but that leaves a significant gap for the students that receive a small stipend for these positions.
SPILO fears the compensation disparity between law students developing public interest careers and corporate careers is discouraging public interest law students from pursuing internships tailored to their interests. The cost of a legal education is significant, and, for many students, the summer break period is a time to not only gain experience but also to earn money to cover their living expenses. While public interest students generally understand that they will not earn a salary comparable to that of a private firm, many are not in a position to take an unpaid or underpaid job because their loans and scholarships are insufficient to offset the cost of rent and other bills. This is especially true for public interest students that cannot rely on financial support from their families.
While SPILO realizes public interest careers require some financial sacrifice and creativity, SPILO believes public interest law students should feel comfortable and valued. Students that work full-time during the summer deserve to make at least a living wage to help offset their expenses – without sacrificing the opportunity to pursue their dream job. Losing public interest students to financial need is also problematic for the legal field, as we need advocates who represent marginalized and vulnerable communities for the adversarial system to function fairly.
To that end, SPILO seeks to create an endowed scholarship to support not only students that pursue unpaid summer internships, but also those that accept underpaid internships. We hope to ensure that these students are paid fairly for their time and effort, and are able to make decisions for summer work based on interest and passion, rather than survival.
SPILO Executive Board