USC Law gets gift to pump up public interest

Add the University of Southern California Gould School of Law to the list of law schools improving their public interest programs. 

USC Law has received a $2 million estate gift from educator, philanthropist and community leader Barbara Bice to support and further the work of the school’s Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), one of the nation’s oldest student organizations in the area of public interest law.

The endowment enhances USC Gould’s commitment to encourage the pursuit of public interest legal careers and advances PILF’s more than 30-year legacy of helping underserved and vulnerable groups. 

A number of law schools have focused on improving such programs. Columbia Law School in New York announced last year it was adding $4.5 million in funding to its public interest program. The University of Akron School of Law in Ohio added more initiatives, including a new Social Justice Fellows program, to broaden its offering.

UCLA Law recently announced it was increasing funding to help graduates off-set the financial pressure one can face doing such work. It doesn't compensate as well as most legal jobs. However, many studies have shown it is among the most rewarding of work. 

In USC's case, in recognition of the gift, PILF was renamed The Barbara F. Bice Public Interest Law Foundation.

"Providing an endowment to support the PILF summer public interest internships provides a unique opportunity,” says Barbara Bice. “First, it recognizes the great contributions the student-founders, subsequent student leadership and grant recipients have made to public interest work over many years. Second, the endowment supports Gould’s commitment to law in the public interest. Third, it furthers opportunities for students to experience first-hand the importance of public interest work. Through these internships, students gain appreciation for the important assistance that they provide to underserved populations. Finally, the gift expands the important benefits the host organizations make to the public good. I am grateful for this unique opportunity."

Added USC Gould Dean Andrew T. Guzman: “Barbara cares deeply about our students. Her gift has meaningful implications for them not only while they are in school, but also beyond their time here. Public interest experiences have the potential to shape our students’ legal careers — and the power to transform the lives of the people and families we all serve. I am enormously thankful to Barbara for this investment in our students and the positive impact that they make. We are pleased to rename the organization in her honor.”

PILF, one of the largest student organizations at USC Gould, funds summer grants for students pursuing public interest law careers and organizes pro bono clinic opportunities during the school year. Students work to obtain legal relief for people who are homeless, children who were abused, low-income working families, undocumented immigrants and refugees and other vulnerable populations. Community partners include the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), Veterans Legal Institute, and Bet Tzedek.