Benjamin Novick LAW ’06 is putting himself through law school while supporting his pregnant wife. But this summer, he was able to take an unpaid internship with the Office of the Public Defender of the New Haven Judicial District, in part because he received funds to help cover his living expenses from the Yale Incentive Program for Public Interest Employment, know as YIPPIE!
Novick also received a Summer Public Interest Fellowship from the Law School, a grant that has existed for several decades to help students who work non-paying jobs at nonprofit organizations or government agencies. YIPPIE!, a student organization founded this past year, has helped increase the subsidies given to students working in the public sector.
“Without the funding I would have faced the choice of working at a law firm and rarely seeing [my wife] or working at the public defender’s office and living on the street,” Novick said.
Law School Associate Dean Megan Barnett said any law student may apply for a Summer Public Interest Fellowship, and students are guaranteed $5,000 if they work a full 12 weeks.
This year, YIPPIE! additionally provided up to $600 to each student with a summer fellowship, said David Wilkinson LAW ’06, a member of the organization’s steering committee.
“There is not a law school in the country that is more supportive of public interest employment,” Wilkinson said, “$5,000 is very generous, but it is still hard amount to live on in an expensive city.”
To raise money for student subsidies, YIPPIE! held several events including the Yale Law Olympics, speed-dating with students from all of Yale’s graduate and professional schools and the Day’s Pay Initiative. Over about two months, these events raised approximately $40,000 — which the Law School matched, yielding a total of $80,000 that was divided among the students.
YIPPIE!’s most successful event was the Yale Law Olympics, in which law students and professors competed in events as diverse as poker, basketball, trivia, beer pong and thumb wrestling, and in the process raised $21,000 from seven law firm sponsors, Wilkinson said.
The Olympics was the largest attended student-run event at the Law School this past year, helping to support YIPPIE’s second goal of promoting public interest employment within the Law School, Wilkinson said.
Although this month only marks YIPPIE!’s first year of operation, Barnett said it seems to be achieving its mission of funding and informing the student body about public interest employment, with 150 students participating in public interest employment this summer, 20 more than the previous average.
Now, group leaders look to the incoming class for the organization’s future, having already held a well-attended meeting last week and begun planning events for the fall that include another speed-dating round and a Yale Law-Harvard Law basketball game on the eve of the Yale-Harvard football game.
“We couldn’t be happier that the [first-year students] have shown such enthusiastic interest for the program,” Wilkinson said. “We are looking forward to them taking the lead on YIPPIE! and this being their organization by the end of the year.”