Infusion of funds allows the Law School to guarantee students summer funding for public interest work
The University of Pennsylvania Law School has received a $2.5 million gift from Robert Toll L'66 and Jane Toll GSE’66, which will enable the School to expand its existing public interest programs by supporting an array of student pro bono initiatives that has doubled in the past three years, guaranteeing summer funding to hundreds of students annually who engage in public interest related work, and supporting a generous loan repayment program for which the demand has increased 50 percent in recent years.
Mr. Toll, Executive Chairman of the Board of Toll Brothers, Inc., the leading builder of luxury homes, and his wife Jane have been strong supporters of the Law School and its public interest programs. The Tolls’ most recent gift will fund ongoing loan forgiveness programs, internships and fellowships, pro bono service projects, and scholarship in the field of public interest.
“The Tolls have been major benefactors in the creation and the expansion of public interest programs at Penn Law,” said Michael A. Fitts, Dean of Penn Law. “This gift provides a new infusion of funds in the midst of an economic downturn that will provide the Law School with additional means to increase our support for students and alumni pursuing public interest careers.”
“It’s my hope that graduates of Penn Law will run public interest organizations and significant departments, agencies, councils, etc. of our government, bringing our uniquely educated students to positions of leadership in the near future,” said Mr. Toll.
Penn Law founded its public interest center in 1989 and renamed it the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC) in 2006 in acknowledgement of a $10 million gift from the Tolls, which allowed the School to significantly expand the Center’s activities. Today, TPIC is a multifaceted, cross-disciplinary program whose mission is to provide Law School students with meaningful opportunities to provide pro bono legal service to under-represented communities.
A national leader in promoting public interest and pro bono legal service, Penn Law is the first top-ranked law school to establish a mandatory pro bono requirement and the first law school to win the American Bar Association's Pro Bono Publico Award. In promoting the culture of public service at the Law School, TPIC is a locus for extensive pro bono and public interest programs at Penn.
These programs include more than twenty pro bono projects in which students represent clients in a variety of fields and cases, including civil rights, environmental justice, family law, governmental practice, health law, immigration, international human rights, labor law, women's rights, and youth law.
Each year through these projects, and in partnership with legal service providers and government agencies nationwide, more than 500 students engage in tens of thousands of hours of service. In the past three years students have contributed over 30,000 hours of pro bono service for disadvantaged clients.
Since the Tolls’ initial gift in 2006, each year hundreds of students have received financial support through the Law School and TPIC for unpaid summer internships in the public sector; for example, this past year 60 percent of Penn Law 1Ls received such funding. With the Tolls’ most recent gift, the Center is now able to guarantee summer funding for students. The Center also provides funding for spring break service projects, such as projects this year in Jordan and Kenya.
Penn Law provides its alumni who engage in public interest work loan repayment assistance through TollRAP, a generous Loan Repayment and Assistance Program (LRAP). All alumni who engage in public interest legal work are eligible for assistance. The amount of assistance is based on a formula that considers the applicant's income and annual law school debt.
The 2006 gift also enabled the Law School to expand the Law School’s Public Interest Scholars Program, which funds full scholarships in the first year and two-thirds scholarships in the second and third years for students committed to practicing in the public sector. Since the Program’s inception, Toll Scholars have obtained leading public interest fellowships, such as Skadden and the Independence Foundation Fellowships; and have joined government and advocacy organizations such as the Department of Justice, the ACLU, and the NAACP-LDF.
The Toll Public Interest Center hosts a myriad of public interest-related events each year, including Penn Law’s annual Public Interest Week, which includes an Honorary Fellow-in-Residence program that brings powerful public interest advocates such as Stephen Bright and Nan Aaron to campus, as well as the Edward V. Sparer Symposium.
In addition, each year the Center awards five competitive post-graduate fellowships to support Penn Law graduating students or recent alumni in their pursuit of public interest careers. Fellows design their own public interest projects and work with partnering non-profit organizations locally, nationally, or internationally – ranging from the Philadelphia Juvenile Law Center to the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C. – on both impact and direct advocacy for underrepresented causes and populations.
“Thanks to the generosity of the Tolls, we have literally been able to double our student initiatives over the past several years,” said Arlene Finkelstein, executive director of TPIC. “As a result, all students at Penn Law are able to engage in a wide range of meaningful pro bono opportunities that offer tremendous hands-on experience, while providing service to the community at a time of tremendous need.”
Finkelstein added: “Likewise, the Law School has been able to expand the funding and resources we offer aspiring public interest lawyers to best prepare for careers in service – while also supporting our graduates with generous loan repayment assistance that enables them to embrace public interest advocacy despite their law school debt.”
Mr. Toll has been a member of the Law School’s Board of Overseers since 1992 and has served repeatedly as guest auctioneer for the Penn Law’s Equal Justice Foundation Auction. He is a former member of the Penn Board of Trustees and currently serves on the board of directors of Cornell Real Estate School; Seeds of Peace, which he and his wife Jane cofounded; and Beth Shalom Synagogue. He is also a managing director of the Metropolitan Opera. Toll Brothers is the sponsor of the Saturday broadcast over the Toll Brothers Metropolitan Opera Network heard round the world. The Tolls’ daughter, Rachel, earned her JD from Penn Law in 2003.