Yale Law School’s public-service portfolio scored another boost last week with a $3 million gift from the Minnesota-based Robina Foundation, which will sponsor a human-rights fellowship over the next three years.
The grant bolsters the school’s renewed effort to expand its support for public service, unveiled last April after concerns that it had been upstaged by a much-hyped initiative out of Harvard Law School a month earlier.
The Robina fellowship at Yale will fund scholarships for students committed to human-rights careers, stipends for law students to pursue human-rights summer jobs, postgraduate fellowships to begin human-rights practice after law school and a fellows-in-residence program to attract human-rights scholars and public officials to Yale.
The goal, Dean Harold Hongju Koh said in a press release, is “an expanding network of superbly trained human rights scholars, practitioners, and teachers capable of making a difference in all varieties of human rights struggles.”
Koh was away this week and could not be reached for comment.
The Robina Foundation, founded by the late Minnesota businessman James Binger ’38, has supported social-change programs at Yale in the past as one of its institutional partners, alongside Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, The Council on Foreign Relations and the University of Minnesota Law School.
Human rights is particularly darling to Koh, whose expertise is in international human-rights law and who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under President Bill Clinton LAW ’73. Yale Law School is generally known among its peers and rivals for emphasizing public service.
So it stung when Harvard Law School snagged headlines in March with its announcement that it would waive the third year of tuition for law students who commit to at least five years of public service after graduation.
Yale Law School administrators tried to cast Harvard as playing catch-up rather than pressing ahead. But in April, Yale followed with its own package to raise the baseline income below which graduates’ loans are forgiven, double the number of post-graduate public-interest fellowships, hire a new full-time director of public-interest programs to counsel students and boost funding for summer opportunities in public service.
“The two Robina post-graduate fellowships will dovetail with these and support the ever-increasing interest our students have in international human rights work,” Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Megan Barnett wrote in an e-mail.
About 15 percent of Yale Law graduates enter public service in their first non-clerkship job.