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Public Interest Opportunities

Drake Law offers lots of opportunities to gain public interest experience through internships.

Drake Legal Clinic

The Drake Legal Clinic has an important role in the Law School’s public interest commitment and opportunities. The clinics represent indigent clients in the following areas: children's rights, criminal defense, elder law, entrepeneurial/transactional matters and general civil issues. The clinics serve a wide range of clients. As students gain real-world experience, they can also have a huge beneficial impact on the clients they serve.

Clinical opportunities have been made available to every student, and approximately half of the Law School's graduates take a clinic course during their time at Drake. The clinical experience unquestionably helps students understand the immense need for legal services and the ethical responsibility lawyers have to provide pro bono and other services in our communities.

Learn more about the Drake Legal Clinic.


Public Interest Internships and Jobs Clearinghouse

Drake is a member of PSJD, which is an online clearinghouse for public interest opportunities. Job listings in the PSJD database include internships (fall, spring, and summer), postgraduate fellowships, and a wide variety of permanent positions. PSJD also includes organizational profiles for nonprofit, government, and other public interest employers spanning the globe (all the organizations that have listed jobs with us in recent years).  Jobseekers may search the database, bookmark opportunities for later viewing, and receive email alerts with newly posted opportunities matching their search criteria. New to PSJD? Students and alumni at subscriber law schools may register for free.


Federal Work Study Internships

Drake University allocates Federal Work Study (FWS) funds to support the Law School’s Summer Community Service internships. You do not earn academic credit for the FWS internships. You can earn seven weeks' pay from July 1 through the start of classes in August. Each FWS intern can earn $4,200 based on an hourly rate of $15/hour.

Participating Public Interest Programs

As part of Drake Law's commitment to providing access to the courts for persons who are indigent, the substantial majority of the FWS Summer Internships have been placed with Iowa Legal Aid and Legal Aid Society of Story County. 

Once the Iowa Legal Aid Summer Fellowship positions have been filled, a determination is made as to the number of internships that can be funded at other public service agencies who desire interns and can provide the requisite matching funds.

Depending on budgets, students have interned using FWS at agencies and non profit organizations including Iowa Coalition against Domestic Violence, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa Attorney General.

Federal Work Study Eligibility Conditions

There are a number of conditions that federal regulations impose on the FWS Community Service internships:

  • You must be FWS eligible and your summer FWS earnings must be counted as a resource toward meeting cost of attendance for the following academic year.
  • A student must commit to working seven weeks between July 1 and the start of classes in August. However, there is nothing that precludes you from volunteering with your agency during the month of June, and interns are encouraged to do so. The volunteer work can be counted toward the Law School’s Public Service Certificate that is awarded at graduation.
  • A student cannot be enrolled in Drake summer courses (interims and all summer sessions) or participate in the Summer in France program.
  • FWS summer internship awards are restricted to select community service agencies located in Iowa.

Iowa Legal Aid Summer Fellowships

Current 1L and 2L students are eligible for these summer fellowships. You must have a 2.00 law school GPA, both at the time of application and at the time of the commencement of the internship. Faculty supervision of this internship enables interns to be certified under the Iowa Supreme Court Student Practice Rule. A one-day mandatory orientation/training in May enables interns to hit the ground running and helps the program qualify for certification under the Supreme Court Student Practice Rule. 

Under the Student Practice Rule, current 1L students can handle fact investigation, client interviews, and actual administrative agency evidentiary hearings. Current 2L students can handle all of the above as well as actual in-court representation, under the supervision of licensed Iowa counsel. Over the years most Drake interns have worked for Iowa Legal Aid, usually in Des Moines but also at outlying offices. See a List of Iowa Legal Aid Offices. A Drake intern has also been regularly placed with Legal Aid Society of Story County in Nevada, Iowa.

If students use FWS dollars discussed above, you will earn $15 per hour and funding is sufficient so that each student can earn $4,200 (280 hours' work x $15 per hour).

The deadline for these Summer Fellowships is February 15, although applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Federal Work Study-Other Public Interest Agencies

The Law School's Career Development Office works with other public interest employers who are certified as eligible to participate in the FWS summer internship program.

The participation of these employers is contingent upon their commitment of the required matching funds and the availability of FWS funds. Although the FWS Guidelines do not restrict participating agencies to those delivering legal services, the Law School, consistent with its mission, will only award internships that involve legal work or the delivery of legal services that are supervised by an attorney.

Interns at these organizations are not certified under the Iowa Supreme Court Student Practice Rule.

If you are interested in an organization other than Legal Aid, you must contact the organization to determine if they are hiring student interns under the FWS program. If the public service agency is interested in participating in the FWS program, it must be approved by the Law School for an allocation of FWS funds.

Once an agency is approved for an FWS funds allocation, applicants will need to submit a cover letter, resume and possibly a writing sample to the organization. Subject to the availability of Drake’s FWS funds, the organization will conduct interviews and select the student workers.

For more information, contact Drake Law School's Career Development Office at 515-271-2988 or

Internships Offered for Credit

Drake Law offers 30 internships for credit with governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations. Learn more about our internships.

Iowa Children's Justice Summer Fellowship

The Iowa Children’s Justice Summer Fellowship is designed to financially support law students who obtain a summer volunteer position in the area of juvenile law. All applicants must locate their own volunteer position.

Examples of eligible juvenile law positions include the Public Defender's Office doing parent representation or GAL/attorney for child work, Youth Law Center in Des Moines, private law firms that provide representation for clients in juvenile court, clerking for juvenile court and appellate judges, and research projects in the area of juvenile law.

The expectation is that fellows will work full-time for eight weeks. 

The deadline is May 1, but decisions will be made on a rolling basis.

For more information, contact Jami Hagemeier and download the Iowa Children's Justice Summer Fellowship Application.

Summer Charles & Joseph Howard Fellowships

The Law School funds the Charles & Joseph Howard Fellowships in the Drake legal clinic through the earnings from the students’ work in providing representation under the legal clinic’s grant with the Iowa State Public Defender’s Office.

Typically, these earnings have been sufficient to award two to four fellowships. Fellowship awards are made by the director of clinical programs, in consultation with the director of the Criminal Defense Clinic. The fellowship also provides a scholarship that covers 2-4 hours of summer tuition, approximately $2,000-4,000.

Fellows are certified under the Iowa Supreme Court Student Practice Rule. They must commit to a minimum of 10 weeks and 200 hours of client representation. Contact Professor Robert Rigg for more information 

Agricultural Law Center Summer Internships

The Agricultural Law Center has secured grant funding to support summer internships.

Students have received a stipend of $2,500, with a minimum time commitment of 20 hours per week for 10 weeks with their sponsoring institution. Students receive no academic credit.

Students who are in the Agricultural Law Certificate Program receive a preference in the award of these internships. Interested students should contact Professor Jennifer Zwagerman for more information about these internships.

Spring Break Opportunities

Drake Law has a proud history of seeking and supporting spring break service opportunities for students. In past years, the Law School developed a relationship with The Pro Bono Project in New Orleans.  Students traveled to New Orleans during Spring Break to provide legal assistance to low income New Orleans residents, many still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. 

Drake Law has also partnered with Equal Justice Works to seek out additional spring break opportunities in the future.  If you are interested in participating in a spring break trip, contact Dean Erin Lee Schneider, (515) 271-2948.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)

The VITA program is sponsored by United Way and a number of community partners to help low-income workers prepare their tax filings. Many Drake alumni have volunteered for a number of years for this program. Students are also welcome to participate. Contact if interested.

Student-sponsored Public Service

Many Law School student organizations engage in public service in addition to philanthropic projects.

  • Halloween Hoops is an annual public service event co-sponsored by the Student Bar Association and the Des Moines NAACP. The event includes a pizza party for 300 community minority youth. In addition to monetary contributions by the SBA and contributions of candy by law students (as part of an Class Amnesty Day program), law students volunteer during the event.
  • Public Interest Law Association members work with volunteer lawyers and faculty on various public service projects including participation in Meals From the Heartland, Reach Out to Dropouts, and the Veterans Stand Down, as well as assisting with the annual Halloween Hoops. PILA also organizes and conducts the annual Court-2-Court 5k run with the proceeds going to fund internships with Iowa Legal Aid.
  • The Student Animal Legal Defense Fund organizes students to volunteer at local animal shelters.
  • Hispanic Latino Law Student Association members take the time to volunteer for the HOLA program, a free legal clinic in Des Moines. Once a month, members offer translation services when the legal clinic is held. 
  • Christian Legal Society coordinates the Winter Warmth Drive in the law school each fall. They collect clothing to help the community stay warm during the winter. They also participate in other service activities including Meals from the Heartland.
  • The Delta Theta Phi legal fraternity provides substantial person-power to Halloween Hoops and has public service programs of its own including semi-annual blood drives and the annual Eat-a-Thon event that raises funds for the Polk County Bar Association's Volunteer Lawer Project.
  • The American Association for Justice participates in an annual food drive that raises money and food collection for the Bidwell Riverside Center food bank.


For more opportunities to get involved with public interest, contact Drake Law School's Career Development Office at 515-271-2988 or

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