BC Law Life: The Public Interest Law Foundation Auction (or, How to Get Paid for Doing Public Interest Work)

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BC students and faculty bid on items at the annual Public Interest Law Foundation Auction on March 27, 2015.

As someone who knew they wanted to do public interest work, one of my biggest concerns coming into law school was how I was going to fund my summers. Public interest summer internships almost never pay, and particularly if you’re looking to work outside of Boston, the prospect of having no income and potentially paying two rents can be really daunting.

Thankfully, for students at BC Law, there’s an on-campus solution: getting funding from the Public Interest Law Foundation (or PILF). PILF is one of the largest student groups on campus, and is the largest public interest organization. (Full disclosure: I sit on the PILF executive board, so I have quite a lot of love for this particular group.) It hosts a number of public interest informational and networking events over the course of the year, but its main function is to raise money to fund student stipends for those who are doing public interest work in between years at school.

This past Friday, PILF hosted its annual Auction on BC’s main campus. The Auction is PILF’s biggest source for fundraising, and perhaps more importantly, is an awesome opportunity to get all dressed up and network with faculty and alumni. This year, the auction was attended by about 250 people and raised about $30,000 for summer stipends.

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Four PILF board members (including yours truly, far left), being pretty excited about using our walkie talkies pre-Auction.

So, how does the Auction work?

Over the course of the year, students who are interested in applying for summer funding are responsible for soliciting three donations from businesses, non-profits, or people they know. The variety of donations is wide: it ranges from Starbucks gift cards, to nights in hotel rooms, to an ESPN banner signed by all of the major network hosts and a football signed by Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick. (Don’t tell Rob I had to look up how to spell Bill’s last name.)

At the Auction, the items are all put up for sale. PILF sets the minimum bid, and then over the course of the evening, attendees can walk around and bid on the items they’re interested in. The nice thing about the Auction is that items come in at a variety of price points, so even students on a student loan budget can pick up some great and useful stuff.

Over the next few weeks, PILF will host another smaller auction on the law school campus to raise money on any items leftover from the main auction. The total earnings will be calculated, and then PILF will begin awarding the actual stipends. Stipends can be up to $4,000 per person, and while every student who applies does not receive funding, the application process provides a bunch of opportunities for applicants to demonstrate their interest in public service.

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1L Representatives & volunteers working the Check In/Out table.

Quick side note: For those students who ultimately don’t receive PILF funding but are still pursuing public interest work over the summer, there are other options available, both on-campus and off. BC’s Clough Fellowship program provides $5,000 a summer for select students, and national scholarship programs like the Equal Justice Works Summer Fellowship can provide funding as well.

All of this is just a long way of saying, if you’re thinking about public interest work and stressed about summer funding, don’t be. There are a ton of opportunities, including PILF, that can make the financial burden that much easier.

I’m a 2L Public Service Scholar with a background in education and an interest in juvenile law. I’ll be blogging each week about public interest at BC, my experiences in our clinical program, and how I’m maintaining my (semi) sanity living in the Law School Bubble. Questions are always welcome! You can comment here, or e-mail me at elizabeth.blass@bc.edu

One thought on “BC Law Life: The Public Interest Law Foundation Auction (or, How to Get Paid for Doing Public Interest Work)

  1. Nicely done! Thanks so much. For many years PILF has been a great contributor to the life of public interest at BC Law. I wish you all the best!

    Like

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