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Public Interest Fellows Pursue Their Dreams

Jun 7, 2012

For nearly two decades, ONU Pettit College of Law Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program has allowed ONU law students to pursue their goals and dreams of becoming public interest attorneys – and to make a difference in our society.

Public service is often a challenging area of law education for students to pursue. The majority of public interest internships are unpaid, which creates an obstacle for those who want to work with the underserved, and especially for those looking for experience in large cities.

To combat this issue, ONU Law’s Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program has provided more than $80,000 in scholarship aid to committed students in the College of Law who wish to pursue careers in public service. The scholarship funds are raised through the annual Public Interest Auction sponsored by Law Career Services. The first auction was held in 1998, and, since then, these scholarships have been completely funded by this event.

David Frank

Since its creation in 1994, fellowship stipends have been granted to more than 80 students. These stipends serve to further the advancement of ONU law students seeking volunteer work in unpaid fields of the public sector, who also desire to continue a career in public service after graduation. A committee of faculty and administration selects students to become ONU Public Interest Fellows based on their previous interest in public service. This year, the committee chose 10 law students from a variety of backgrounds.

Fellowship program recipients have previously volunteered in nonprofit organizations, government agencies and unassisted clerking positions. In these positions, students work to assist women and children, minorities, the elderly, the mentally and physically disabled, and other groups or persons otherwise unable to obtain legal representation.  

Current L-3 David W. Frank, one of the 2011 Public Interest Fellows, spent last summer in Indianapolis at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana. He gained invaluable experience composing legal memoranda, reviewing briefs and records for federal court appearances, and even attending a trial challenging the solitary confinement of mentally ill prisoners.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to use my Public Interest Law Fellowship Award for the purposes of this position,” says Frank. “I worked under Legal Director Ken Falk and alongside interns from the law schools of Harvard, Michigan, and Indiana-Indianapolis defending the constitutional rights of students, immigrants, prisoners and many others.”

The 2012 Public Interest Fellows are now interning in numerous cities across the country, in states as far away as Texas and Washington. Many students are spending their summer in district attorney, defense and prosecutor’s offices where they are furthering their interest in public service for their ONU law degrees and beyond.


—Steve Saunier


Political Science major

Centerburg, OH