By Jasmine Narang • August 12, 2015
Many aspiring lawyers hope to use their law degree to fight injustices and assist the disadvantaged. Post-graduate public interest fellowships are a way for recent law graduates to attain this goal.
A public interest fellowship can be considered as a position that awards a specific amount of funding for a fixed period of time and purpose. Public interest fellowships are generally for a period of 1-2 years and allow graduates to provide assistance to non-profits that work to ameliorate injustice and inequity. Most fellowships are reserved for graduates who have been out of law school for a maximum of three years.
There are myriad public interest fellowships available to law graduates who are interested in pursuing public interest law. Some fellowships may serve as a point of entry for permanent employment and some fellowships also provide loan repayment assistance.
Generally, public interest fellowships fall under three categories: (1) Project-Based fellowships; (2) Organizational fellowships; and (3) Government fellowships.
In addition to the opportunities listed below, law students should look to see if their law school also hosts fellowships. Several law schools such as NYU and the Yale School of Law provide fellowships to their graduates as a stepping stone for their public interest careers.
Project-based fellowships are usually funded by foundations that provide support to law graduates to carry out a project by coordinating with an existing non-profit organization.
Though the Equal Justice Works fellowship and the Skadden Foundation Fellowship are the largest funders of project-based fellowships, there are other resources law students should consider.
Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship
- The Soros Justice advocacy Fellowship is part of the Open Society Institute and offers media and advocacy fellowships for projects that address criminal justice reform issues. Projects may range from litigation to public education to coalition building to grassroots mobilization to policy research. Projects must identify a clear policy goal and may be implemented in conjunction with non-profit organizations.
- Fellows receive $58,700–$110,250. In addition, Soros Fellows also receive assistance with loan repayment, health insurance and professional development.
- For more information, and application materials, visit http://www.soros.org/
Echoing Green Fellowship
- Echoing Green offers two-year fellowships to social entrepreneurs who create new social change and innovative solutions in areas such as the environment, arts, education, civil and human rights, and community economic development. The fellowship is not limited to law related projects.
- Fellows receive up to $90,000 in two years
- For more information, and application materials, visit http://www.echoinggreen.org/
Institute for Educational Equity and Opportunity
- The Institute for Educational Equity and Opportunity provides a one-year fellowship to a law school graduate to work in the areas of educational equity in conjunction with a public interest education project or with attorneys who work in the field.
- For more information, and application materials, visit: www.ifeeo.org
Various non-profits host fellowships for entry level lawyers. These fellowships are usually administered by the organization itself, which provides direct supervision. Furthermore, the organization determines the fellow’s salary, range of benefits, the duration of the fellowship, as well as the specific project that the fellow will undertake.
- The Polikoff-Gautreaux Fellowship is sponsored by the Business & Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI). It is based in Chicago and offers a one-year fellowship that is renewable for a second year. The fellow works on matters to improve the quality of life for the residents of Chicago by transforming segregated public housing, improving public education, and increasing the availability of affordable housing.
- For more information and application materials: (www.bpichicago.org/pg.php):
Greenlining Institute Fellowship
- The Greenlining Institute is a California based organization dedicated to racial and economic justice. The Academy Fellowship Program is a 12 month leadership training program. Generally, fellows participate in leadership and skills building workshops and build partnerships with community, government, and corporate entities. The fellowship is not limited to law-related projects.
- For more information, and application materials, visit http://greenlining.org/
American Civil Liberties Union Legal Fellowships
- The ACLU sponsors numerous fellowships within its National Legal Program. The Legal Program consists of a broad range of civil rights and civil liberties issues, including: racial justice, free speech, national security, human rights, reproductive freedom, drug law reform, prisoners' rights women's rights, and immigrants' rights.
- Fellowships are for one to two years, depending on the project, and project placements are located throughout the country.
- For more information, and application materials, visit http://www.aclu.org/careers/3
Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program
- The Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship allows public interest lawyers to gain experience in furthering women's rights. Fellows work in Washington, DC with a variety of organizations involved in legal and policy issues affecting women, such as pay equality, family law, domestic violence, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, rape and sexual assault, and international women's human rights.
- For more information, visit http://www.law.georgetown.edu/academics/centers-institutes/wlppfp/index.cfm
Juvenile Law Center Zubrow Fellowship
- The Zubrow Fellowship provides an opportunity to engage in a wide variety of advocacy efforts on behalf of children in the delinquency and dependency systems. Zubrow Fellows are involved in training, legislative efforts, litigation, policy work and some direct representation on issues ranging from the rights of dependent youth aging out of the foster care system to the needs of juveniles reentering the community from delinquent placements.
- The fellowship is a two-year fellowship.
- For more information, and application materials, visit http://jlc.org/about-us/who-we-are/working-at-jlc/zubrow-fellowship-childrens-law
Fellowships with government entities are typically only available to law students only immediately after graduation or a judicial clerkship. These are typically referred to as “Honors Programs”
The Attorney General’s Honors Program
- The Honors Program is the DOJ’s entry level recruitment program. Students apply in their third year for an entry-level position.
- Organizations that typically participate in the Honors Program are: the Antitrust, Civil, Civil Rights, Criminal, Environment and Natural Resources, and Tax Divisions; the Federal Bureau of Prisons; the Executive Office for Immigration Review; the U.S. Trustees' Office; and select U.S. Attorney's Offices.
- For more information about the Honors Program and the application process, visit: http://www.justice.gov/careers/legal/entry.html
Presidential Management Fellows Program
- The Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF) is a program that recruits law graduates to work in executive branch agencies. The program is administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
- Applicants must take an online assessment during the application process that consists of three parts: Situational Judgment Test, Questionnaire, and Essay Questions.
- The PMF does not have attorney positions. Instead finalists may work as policy analysts, budget analysts, tax law specialists, and etc.
- For more information, visit: http://www.pmf.gov/
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