Monday, November 23, 2009

PlLA Grants ITE (Big Changes?)

All PILA members just received this email - all emphasis is added. The gist is a reduction in PILA grant amounts and reduction in the "cap" for outside income:
This weekend, the PILA Board met to discuss the 2L PILA fellowship applications it received in early November. The applications inspired PILA Board members and demonstrated a 2L applicant pool with a deep commitment to public service. The number of applications PILA received also indicated the great need for PILA fellowships this summer. PILA received a record number of forty two 2L applications this fall. For reference, PILA received eighteen 2L applications last fall.

Given the depth of need indicated by the number of PILA fellowship applications, prior to beginning discussions on individual applications, the PILA Board considered lowering the PILA fellowship amount and funding cap. After a lengthy discussion, the Board decided to lower fellowship amounts to $6,000 for 2Ls and $3,500 to 1Ls. The aforementioned numbers reflect the figures that PILA has intended for students to receive to support their public service work, after taxes. However, in past years, PILA has disbursed a grant amount that provided a cushion for taxes, namely $7,083 for 2Ls and $4,132 for 1Ls.

After a conversation with the Law School Foundation, PILA determined that the vast majority of students should not have to pay taxes on PILA fellowships, and as a consequence, PILA has overpaid students above the intended amount of a fellowship the past two years. By lowering the grant amount to coincide with the previously intended fellowship amount, PILA will be able to disburse more fellowships than it previously had believed it could this year.

In addition, the PILA Board decided to lower the funding cap to $8,000 for both 1Ls and 2Ls. This means that 2Ls can only make an additional $2,000 in income above the PILA fellowship amount over the summer, including other grants, and 1Ls can only make an additional $4,500. The Board hopes that this change will serve to increase the number of fellowships disbursed.

With a substantial decrease in firm donations to PILA this year and the fact that PILA had an additional $90,000 to disburse last year (leftover from a one-time $150,000 donation in 2008), PILA will likely have less funds overall to disburse this year. However, with the generous support of the student body, faculty, private donors, and most importantly, the Law School Foundation, PILA will disburse as many grants as possible this year. The Law School Foundation will again provide PILA with a match-plus on PILA fundraised dollars so as to support students pursuing public interest this summer.

Thoughts? We'll post ours shortly.


Anonymous said...

I support this. If the grant amount was set with taxes in mind, and people aren't actually needing to pay taxes, then lower the amount and give more grants. It seems to me that people shouldn't be making money on PILA grants but rather just be sustained through the summer -- i.e., break-even -- which also supports capping outside income (b/c if you get another grant, that's wonderful, let someone else have your PILA funds though).

The goal should be as many people being able to afford to do public interest work as possible and I think this accomplishes that.

-not a member of PILA

Anonymous said...

Sounds like commie bullshit to me.


Anonymous said...

"Sounds like commie bullshit to me.


In Soviet Union, PILA grants reduce you!

Anonymous said...

No suprise that the amounts are lower given the economy. But in defense of the firms, most are now giving much more to public interest via sponsored year long fellowships.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a reasonable change. Good for PILA.

Anonymous said...

Why not adopt NYU's approach? Anybody who does public interest during 1L or 2L summer should receive funding automatically. Said funding is a grant unless the student pursues private work post graduation. If, after graduating, the student works in the private sector, the grant is converted into a loan. Those of us making 100k+ upon graduation can easily afford to pay back the grant money we received, and those of us who want to do public interest will not be deterred by a lack of funding.

Most of the funding dished out to 1L's would be returned to the school through this process and we'd be able to fund more 2L's who are actually going to go into public interest work after graduating.

What options do those students pursuing public interest employment really have without a PILA grant? The availability of other grants is extremely limited. Equal Justice Works, for instance, does not fund interns working on either side of the criminal justice system. Thus, many students who don't receive a PILA grant end up doing menial work for a professor during their 1L or 2L summers just so they can put some sort of legal experience on their resume. Alternatively, they work in the public interest and have to take out personal loans that won't be eligible for loan forgiveness programs.

Anonymous said...

6:01, that's a great idea. I totally agree, as a former PILA-grant recipient who will going to a firm after graduation, myself! I'd be happy to pay it back and I'm grateful that the money was there when I needed it.

Rule 12 (f) said...

6:01, 12:02 -

Agree 100%. I wrote about the idea in a previous post, I think it would do a lot of good.

I didn't get a PILA grant, but I am going to a firm . . . If i had gotten one for my 1L summer, I'd have no problem paying it back (even after my firm summer).

Anonymous said...

PILA can't guarantee everyone a reasonable amount of grant money because we don't know how much money we will have, and to be honest, PILA obviously doesn't have enough. But firm employees, feel free to put your money where your mouth is and, indeed, buy something at the PILA Auction worth $3500 or $6000 dollars. That money will be matched by the Law School Foundation and you will be giving back twice what you received. Plus you'll get whatever you're bidding on, obviously.

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