UC Law SF Public Service Grants Uplift Communities and Future Legal Careers

Maya Galicia-Canto ’20, Micah Lesch ’25, and Hilary Slauson ’25 spent their summers working with domestic violence survivors, immigrants, and lawmakers in California and Washington D.C. Donors make the work possible by providing funding for grants that allow students to work in otherwise unpaid summer internships that serve the public interest.

Every summer, scores of UC Law San Francisco students serve the public interest by interning at nonprofits and government offices that assist immigrants, low-income tenants, survivors of domestic violence, and others who need legal help.

The work has been funded for over 30 years by the College’s summer fellowship program, which helps cover students’ living costs while they work in unpaid summer internships. Beyond providing critical support for often-underfunded entities like public defender’s offices and legal aid organizations, the program also helps break down financial hurdles for law students who want to hone their legal skills and gain firsthand experience while serving the community.

“These public-interest grants reflect UC Law San Francisco’s commitment to cultivating skilled legal practitioners who are also compassionate advocates,” said Chancellor & Dean David Faigman. “We are immensely proud of this program, which expands opportunities for all students to engage in this important work, regardless of their financial means.”

Past grant recipients have worked for district attorneys, public defenders, city attorneys, legal aid offices, and nonprofits that advocate for immigrants, tenants, environmental justice, police accountability, prisoners’ rights, and more. The multitude of opportunities stem from the College’s central location and strong connections in San Francisco and beyond.

Alumni and other donors make the work possible through their generosity. Around $500,000 in donations can fund up to 100 positions, providing about $5,000 to each law student.

“These donations have triple impact,” said Professor Gail Silverstein, Associate Dean of Experiential Learning and Faculty Co-Director of the Center for Social Justice at UC Law SF. “They heighten students’ career trajectories, lessen their financial burden, and bolster the capacity of organizations and public institutions that serve the community.”

The funding formula for the grant program has evolved over the years. In the past, law students helped raise money through an annual gala and auction, which required great effort on their part. In recent years, Chancellor & Dean David Faigman has prioritized this program in his fundraising efforts, allocating substantial donor funds to this important program.

“We made these changes to support our students and show our commitment to public-interest work that benefits the community,” said Amy Kimmel, Assistant Dean of the Career Development Office. “It’s so wonderful to see our donors step up and fulfill this need for our students.”

Maya Galicia-Canto ’20 is one of many graduates who say the program helped pave the way for future success. As a law student, she wanted to gain experience in family law but could find no private firms hiring summer interns in the field. She spent two summers working for the nonprofits Open Door Legal and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. In those roles, she worked directly with low-income clients on family law matters and helped domestic violence survivors obtain court-ordered protection from abusive partners.

Galicia-Canto now works as an attorney specializing in family law matters with the Skarin Law Group in Southern California. She said the grant allowed her to take full advantage of the professional opportunities. Like many public interest grant recipients, she ended up working in the private sector after graduation, building on skills learned in the summers during law school.

“I certainly could not have afforded to work for free, and nonprofits were my best opportunity to gain work experience,” she said.

In the summer of 2023, Hilary Slauson ’25 spent 10 weeks interning with the Immigration Institute of the Bay Area, where she helped immigrants apply for asylum and a special visa program for crime victims. She worked with trauma-survivor clients, sharpened her research and writing skills, and learned firsthand about aspects of the immigration system.

“Without the public interest grant, I would not have been able to pursue this internship in a line of work that aligns with my values and career goals,” she said.

When Micah Lesch ’25 was offered the chance to work with legal staff for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee last summer, a public-interest grant helped him afford the high cost of living in Washington D.C.

While there, he helped prepare members of Congress for depositions with experts and government officials, drafted research memos and legal briefs, and posed questions for lawmakers to ask high-profile witnesses, including FBI Director Christopher Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. He said it exposed him to the policymaking side of immigration law and reaffirmed his commitment to pursuing a career as an advocate for asylum seekers.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “When you’re living in D.C. as a law student in an unpaid position, it’s clear that people who can take these unpaid positions usually come from a privileged background. I was lucky to receive the financial support that made this experience possible.”


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More stories of public-interest grant recipients:

Gabby Olk ’25 Helps Represent the Nation’s Forests in USDA Internship

UC Law SF Students Tackle Environmental, State Prison Issues in California DOJ Internships

Jorryn Tovera ’25 Helps Immigrant Children and Foster Youth in Summer Internship