Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2011-06-03


Many students at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law will learn and serve this summer as participants in a public interest fellowship program.

A record number, 100 to be exact, will volunteer part of their summer vacation to work at a public interest entity. The fellowship program, a part of Cumberland’s Public Interest Project, will provide a stipend of about $1,500 to each student.  

The students are serving judges, state and federal prosecutors, state and federal public defenders, environmental and public policy groups, and volunteer lawyer programs at 59 sites in Alabama, the District of Columbia, and seven other states. Each will work six to 12 weeks at their assigned job.

Their service is particularly valuable this year, says Cumberland dean John L. Carroll, because of state and federal budget cuts.

“The program is a win-win for all concerned,” said Carroll. “The agencies where students volunteer have legal assistance they may not otherwise have had. Our students benefit by being exposed to public interest law and public service. And, they make valuable networking connections.”

Cumberland’s public interest fellowship program, which began in 2005 with 11 participants, has experienced increased student interest each year. In 2010, 77 students participated.

Stipends are awarded based on the educational benefit of the proposed work experience, the benefit to the community, and the student’s expressed interest in pursuing public interest work.

The program allows students to experience the importance of public service that they might not have otherwise, says Cassandra Adams, director of the Cumberland Public Interest Project.

“In previous years, many fellowship opportunities have been springboards to full-time jobs for the students,” said Adams.

The fellowships are made possible through the generosity of Cumberland alumni, the Henry G. Sims and Henry Upson Sims Foundation, Beasley Allen law firm and Miles McGrane J.D. '75.