The Hunt for Law School Grants
The legal profession is essential to the efficient and fair functioning of the legal system, government and corporations. There will always be a need for lawyers, and a legal education can be a gateway to a career in many other professions. But a legal education is expensive: many law schools will cost between $100,000 to $200,000 for the three years needed to graduate. For this reason, it is important that prospective law students leave no stone unturned in their search for funding. The competition for grants specifically for law students is fierce, so the student who does the most thorough research and applies for the most grants possible is the one who is the most likely to obtain this funding.
Grants for law students are most often available from two sources:
- Law schools, and
- Professional organizations and associations
Grants from Law Schools
This should be a student’s first area of research. Most law schools offer grants, as well as scholarships, to their students based on need and/or academic promise. Grant and scholarship funding is an essential part of a law school’s reputation, so most school make a point of finding creative ways to raise and administer the funds needed for grant s and scholarships. Carefully research each prospective school’s website and talk with their financial aid representatives when deciding which schools to apply to.
Because most law school takes their mission to train and provide lawyers for public interest practices, they offer excellent grants to law students who accept public interest jobs during the summer or during the school year. These grants go by many different names – for example, at the University of Virginia (www.law.virginia.edu), this funding is called Legal Services Fellowships, at Santa Clara University (www.law.scu.edu), they are called Social Justice Grants, and at Emory University (www.law.emory.edu) they care called EPIC Grants. What ever they are called, these grants are vehicles for defraying law school costs and obtaining real-world legal experience.
Grants from Professional Associations
The American Bar Association is the largest professional organization for the legal profession, and they prove a number of grants and scholarships for students with financial need. Students can research and apply for grants at www.abanet.org.
The Federal Circuit Bar Association awards a number of scholarships each year. The website is www.fedcirbar.org.
Private grants and scholarships can be available for students based on what part of the country they are from, their ethnic heritage, their religious affiliation, and their interests. For example, the Serbian Bar Association of America (www.serbbar.org) awards scholarships to students of Serbian descent and to those related to a Serb by marriage. The Alexander Graham Bell Association (www.nc.agbell.org) awards the George H. Nofer Scholarship for Law and Public Policy scholarship to law students who are deaf or hearing-impaired.
The University of Michigan Law School maintains an excellent site which lists grant and scholarship opportunities for law students. On this site, students can find associations based on ethnicity, disability, religion and many other groupings, as well as international fellowships and environmental scholarships. This site can be found at www.law.umich.edu/currentstudents/financialaid.
The University of Idaho also maintains an extensive site which lists funding opportunities. These listings are searchable by category (i.e. Diversity, State of Residence, Organizations, etc.). This site is www.law.uidaho.edu/external_scholarships.