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Public Interest Research Grant Program (PIRG)

The Program on the Legal Profession has created Public Interest Research Grants (PIRG) designed to encourage and help fund Harvard Law School student research projects focusing on the professional structures and norms, practice dynamics, and career challenges of public interest legal practitioners and other aspects of public sector legal service delivery. The fellowships include access to PLP’s research resources, the opportunity to meet and discuss research with faculty and peers, and financial support to enable students to conduct empirical research and writing projects that might otherwise be cost-prohibitive.

PIRG funding, up to $2,500, can be used to help to defray a range of costs, including travel and interview expenses and the creation, distribution, administration and analysis of survey instruments. All HLS students may apply and PIRG funding may be aggregated with other funding, such as winter term research grants.

Fellowships are offered throughout the academic year, and applications will be considered on a rolling basis.

Download the application

Questions? Email us.

Recent PIRG recipients include:

  • Madison Condon, JD Class of 2014
    Madison is making a documentary film that explores the role of women in the community management of rural water resources. She will spend January 2014 working with the Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD) in Mewat, a Muslim majority district of India, outside of Delhi. In addition to suffering from extreme water scarcity, Mewatis currently lack capacity and empowerment in the assertion of water rights and entitlements. Her film will be used in trainings with community leaders on ways to better integrate women in the process of community governance. IRRAD will also use the film as an educational tool in its partnership with resource rights legal clinics at local India law schools. Madison has a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Columbia University and is currently a joint degree student with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

  • Valérie Duchesneau, JD Class of 2014
    Valérie is researching sentencing for domestic violence-related crimes in modern urban India, including dowry deaths and murder. Indian society has shown increasing concern with gender inequality issues, as evidenced by the social uproar in the wake of the December 16, 2012 gang rape in Delhi. This research on sentencing will more closely observe judicial use of discretion in sentencing judgments in India, including the various factors that work to either reduce or increase perpetrators’ sentences once they are convicted. Valérie’s project will evaluate how the sentencing process in India’s criminal law system hinders or promotes gender equality and access to justice for women in the context of social change.

  • Ashley Belyea, JD Class of 2014
    Ashley's research seeks to map the role of legal professionals in South Sudan—one of many states emerging from conflict to employ a provisional constitution and a re-design timeline. Constitutional re-design in many countries has proven hotly contested and insufficiently understood. Ashley will conduct interviews with participants and stakeholders in the National Constitutional Review Commission during January 2013 in order to identify actors’ perspectives on impacting the processes used and outcomes reached. She has a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, where her master’s thesis focused on constitutional dilemmas and global peace operations. She has served as an extern in the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of Defense and as a legal intern with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Sarajevo. Prior to law school, Ashley co-founded a U.S.-Bosnia exchange program for young dancers.

  • Adriana Lee Benedict, JD Class of 2014
    Adriana's research explores the role of public interest lawyering in the field of intellectual property in emerging economies, particularly as impacted by international trade and investment agreements and related arbitration. To begin her research, she is traveling to Brazil to participate in the 2012 Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, where she will be speaking to public interest lawyers from emerging economies about how intellectual property provisions in international trade and investment agreements impact their work. Importantly, Adriana’s research will aim to assess the current challenges and opportunities for South-North collaboration in this realm. Adriana is a student fellow at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics. She holds leadership roles with the Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, the Right to Research Coalition, and the Harvard Human Rights Journal, and is a researcher with the HSPH Program on Human Rights in Development. Adriana holds an S.M. (Global Health and Population) from the Harvard School of Public Health, and an A.B. from Harvard College (History and Science, with a secondary field in Government, and a Certificate in Mind, Brain and Behavior).

  • Matthew Sundquist, Harvard College Class of 2009
    Matthew’s research is examining how the political, legal, and economic conditions have sparked the creation of specialized Supreme Court practices beginning in 1985. In his research Matthew observes that court experts could be well-paid for litigating and many of these clinics are managed by and composed of former members of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). His project will measure the number of cases argued per term from 1983-2010 by former Deputies, Assistants, and Solicitors General who moved to private practice. Matthew will then gauge whether OSG veterans won more often than other advocates and whether they represent, more often than not, corporate interests to potentially explain whether former members of the OSG have had a disproportionate impact on the Court’s jurisprudence on behalf of corporations.

  • Emily Inouye, JD Class of 2011
    Emily’s work intends to highlight how globalization has affected pro bono legal services in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Her research is examining the role of globalization and the increased interaction between lawyers, firms, and bar associations in the promotion of pro bono practice while exploring the types of pressure applied by the international community to conform to pro bono standards and practice exercised in Europe and the US. To conduct her research, Emily attended a conference in Chile with participants from the NYC Bar Association and lawyers and representatives from bar associations and non-profit organizations throughout Latin America.

  • Shafiq Poonja, JD Class of 2013
    Shafiq, after being selected for an internship under Justice Dalveer Bhandari of the Supreme Court of India, chose to take this opportunity to examine the role of ADR within the Indian legal community, and its impact on India’s legal profession. His research will explore the role of mediation and arbitration within the Indian legal community by using his internship contacts to interview top government and legal professionals engaging with these mechanisms. Shafiq will also interview NGOs and smaller legal service centers to analyze how mediation and arbitration are used on a daily basis for smaller matters.

  • Innocent Enga Kameni, LLM Class of 2010
    Enga’s research addressed the African Development Bank’s African Legal Support Facility (ALSF) as a public sector practitioner support model. He conducted a critical examination of the ALSF and its practitioners in the context of the Zambia – Donagel case and analyzed the ALSF’s suitability in combating vulture funds. Enga reviewed many similar initiatives being made to see how the African Development Bank implemented them across the diverse legal backgrounds of its membership, and explored the possible challenges ALSF might face as a model. Enga’s additional research project aims to address HIV/AIDS, same-sex relationships and the legal profession in Namibia and South Africa. He is examining the impacts that HIV and homosexuality have had and might continue to have on the legal profession and bar development in Namibia and South Africa. From his findings, Enga intends to provide recommendations and examples of best practices that the legal fraternity in these countries might adopt to adequately respond to the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS and homosexuality in these emerging markets.

  • Supawon Lervisit, JD Class of 2011
    Wonny is studying innovative community legal services initiatives and their delivery models by analyzing the effectiveness of a new “limited representation” model for tenants and former owners of foreclosed homes in the Boston area. Her research seeks to determine whether this less resource intensive approach could provide an effective, broader-reaching supplement to traditional legal services delivery and asking whether this model could be replicated in other cities or for other types of legal services.
  • Andrea C. Rutherford, JD Class of 2010
    Andrea is conducting research addressing the role and influence of legal aid lawyers on post-apartheid jurisprudence in South Africa. The study investigated the practice potential and influence of South African legal aid lawyers in post-apartheid South Africa in a more comprehensive and systematic way than has been done previously, including analyzing quantitative and qualitative data on all civil cases brought by legal aid lawyers to South Africa’s three highest courts from the end of apartheid through 2009.
  • Abdul Baasit Abdul Aziz, SJD Class of 2010
    Baasit conducted a study which examined the suitability of the ‘conventional’ code of conduct for lawyers for legal practice in Africa. Through a series of formal and informal interviews, and an analysis of public interest law terrain, Baasit explored some of the ethical challenges facing public interest law attorneys in Africa.
  • Damjan Kukovec, SJD Class of 2013
    Damjan examined the legal profession’s role in the construction and function of the European Union. This was done by exploring the unexamined consciousness of the EU legal profession, conducting an examination of EU lawyers’ background assumptions to find out what they see as problems to be solved and what they miss and investigating the legal profession’s role in the EU’s structure and operation not as a coalition of sector-specific experts, but rather as a special science of government with a cross-sectoral knowledge.
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