A project of Democracy Fund

The Legal Clinic Fund


Photo of Spotlight PA journalists, used by permission

About the Fund

The Legal Clinic Fund is a collaborative fund to support the growth and sustainability of legal clinics across the United States that seek to advance and defend First Amendment rights, media freedom, and transparency in their communities and nationally.

The Fund provides grants to support the clinics’ growth, collaboration, capacity building, and experimentation. This Fund will be a catalyst for the growth and sustainability of existing clinics and centers and will provide newsrooms and journalists with increased legal resources and representation for those who are least likely to receive it from traditional sources. Ultimately, the Fund seeks to ensure that any newsroom or journalists who needs legal support can access it.

The Fund is supported by The Abrams FoundationDemocracy Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation, and The Klarman Family Foundation. The Miami Foundation serves as fiscal sponsor for the Fund.

Read about our first round of grants here.


The Legal Clinic Fund will be making its second round of grants in 2020.

Grant Size + Duration: Grant amounts will vary, depending on proposed activities and the organization’s capacity. Grant awards for small organizations will likely range from $50,000 – $150,000 annually. Grant awards for large organizations will likely range from $75,000 – $200,000 annually.

Grant durations will also vary but we expect many grants will support multi-year projects. As part of the application process, applicants will be able to express interest in being considered for multi-year funding.

Please note there is a 10% limit on university overhead that may be charged to grant awards.

Timeline: Eligible applicants must submit a proposal online via the Miami Foundation’s Submittable application. Each Clinic may submit one proposal.

  • Request for proposals released:   March 3, 2020
  • Proposals due: May 8, 2020 by end of day (note new date)
  • Interviews: June 1-12, 2020 (note, only select applicants will be interviewed)
  • Notification of grants:  Week of June 22, 2020
  • Grant Period:  July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021 (Year 1)

We will host an informational webinar and provide office hours for interested applicants to learn more and get their questions answered. 

Webinar Date: Tuesday, March 17 at 12:00 pm eastern time
Please register at this link

Open office hours in March: Please register at this link.

Eligibility: Legal clinics affiliated with accredited law schools are eligible to apply. The fund will not provide seed funding for new clinics or grants to unfunded proposed clinics. Preference will be given to clinics able to demonstrate a commitment to service of, or partnership with, newsrooms and journalists.


Focus Areas

The Fund provides financial support to First Amendment and media serving legal clinics affiliated with accredited law schools. The Fund offers grants in three broad areas: capacity building and infrastructure, collaboration, and experimentation.

Capacity building and infrastructure: The Fund seeks to invest in capacity building efforts including, but not limited to, the funding of fellows, litigation costs, administrative support, programmatic support and/or expansion, etc. that will enable legal clinics to serve more journalists and expand their impact.

Experimentation: The fund wants to support forward looking, exploratory and experimental projects that could have profound impact on local newsrooms, or establish important new ideas that could support and protect local journalists and people’s access to community information.


Values

The Legal Clinic Fund is guided by five values:

Independence: It is of paramount importance that any legal clinic receiving funding from the fund remain independent. As such, the fund will not seek to influence decisions regarding the cases these clinics take on.

Community: The fund will prioritize organizations that are working in service of local communities and publishers, and helping address local, regional and state issues. We expect that many clinics will also work on national level cases, but want to encourage accessibility to the issues local journalists encounter. We also recognize that local cases can set important precedents that are critical to national debates later.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The fund will give special consideration to how legal clinics can help support a new generation of diverse First Amendment scholars and practitioners. If we are to defend the First Amendment as a right embraced by all, we must work to ensure the field of First Amendment lawyers is inclusive as well.

Collaboration: Throughout history, advances in First Amendment law have often come through solidarity across publishers. The need for partnership is even greater now, and as such the fund is biased towards collaboration. We believe that these legal clinics will be stronger and more successful if they can develop strong relationships rooted in collaboration and partnership.

Sustainability: The Fund values clinics seeking to build a long-term resource, not a short term infusion of capital for a temporary spike in activity.


Application Process

Applicants must submit a proposal online via the Miami Foundation’s Submittable application (link will go live in March). Please see the timeline above.

How Decisions Are Made: An advisory committee with knowledge of the landscape of clinics focused on press freedom issues, legal challenges newsrooms and independent journalists face, and grant making best practices, will complete a blind review of grant applications and make recommendations for funding using the stated guidelines and values above.

The committee for our 2020 grants includes representatives from each of the foundations supporting the Legal Clinic Fund and a group of external advisors including Nabiha Syed, President of the Markup, Anne Galloway, the founder and editor of VTDigger, and Ellen Goodman, co-director and co-founder of the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law.

Questions: Please contact Lindsey Linzer, Senior Director of Programs and Grants Administration, The Miami Foundation at LLinzer@miamifoundation.org.

To Apply: Submit your application to the Miami Foundation by the end of the day on May 8, 2020.

For your convenience you can download a copy of the program guidelines, a list of frequently asked questions, and a list of the questions that are on the application. Click here to download those materials.