post-graduate public interest fellowships
Post-graduate fellowships are an excellent opportunity to begin a career in public interest and to develop your expertise as a new attorney. Post-graduate fellowships are positions with time-limited funding. Generally, a fellowship will be either:
(1) offered by a non-profit agency to fill a specific need, often for a project funded by a grant from a charitable foundation to the agency, or
(2) created by a grant made by a foundation in response to an application from you in order to fund a project that you yourself have designed.
Typically in the second case, you will have to have a host agency agree to supervise your project and act as the charitable recipient of your funding.
Below are answers to frequently asked questions about applying for fellowships. For more complete details, including a timeline to consider if you are interested in applying for a post-graduate fellowship, see the Career Services Job Search Handbook (BC login required). If you would like to speak with a counselor about applying to fellowships, please call 617-552-4345 to set up an appointment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I find out about possible fellowships?
A: A good place to start are the Postgraduate Fellowship Resources on the PSJD website. You can also consult The Comprehensive Fellowship Guide-Ultimate Resource for Law Students and Lawyers, availabe in the Office of Career Services Resource Library.
Q: Some fellowships require me to design my own project--where do I start?
A: Before you start, you may wish to review summaries of projects that have been funded or proposed in the past. These are available at the websites of the grant orgaizations. Then, think about the subject areas that interest you. Spend some time researching the cutting edge issues in the field. Remember that research can include library research (e.g., law review articles), but should also include speaking with practicing lawyers and faculty members in the field. You should also research each funding organization as each fellowship has its own funding preferences and history.
You must then identify some organizations that may be interested in having you work with them if you obtain a fellowship. A good place to start is with an organization with which you have previous contacts, perhaps through an internship or summer job. Another approach is to use alumni or faculty contacts. The sponsoring agency does not have to be a big name; however, make sure that it is respected and has had experience supervising new attorneys, because the funders do take into account the reputation of your proposed sponsor when evaluating your application. Funders also consider the strength of your relationship with the sponsoring agency and how significant your proposed project is to the work that agency does. Remember to work with the sponsoring organization in developing your felloship proposal.
Q: What do the fellowship applications consist of?
A: Most programs require personal statements and essays by the applicant, recommendations from professors and/or former employers, and transcripts. Some require a statement from a sponsoring organization; others require a legal writing sample.
Q: How do I prepare my application?
A: By the time you sit down to write, you should have a pretty good idea of what you want to say. Make sure that you leave yourself plenty of time to prepare your application. Most fellowships will require you to write one or more essays describing your project and your background. Edit and edit again! Ask others to give you feedback on the essays. In some cases, such as the Skadden Fellowships, you can actually get some early feedback directly from the program when you are at the preliminary stages.
Fellowship funders look at your application to see how well you convey the goals of your project, how concrete and specific your strategies are, and how well you display the particular skills and experience you bring to the work. Demonstrating your commitment to the public interest and sincere enthusiasm is essential.
Q: What are some of the best-known Fellowships?
A: The best-known post-graduate public interest fellowships are: The Equal Justice Works Fellowship, The Skadden Foundation Fellowship, and The Soros Criminal Justice Fellowship. These fellowships are described briefly below; for further details, including lists of BC Law alumni who have previously been offered these fellowships, please refer to the Job Search Handbook. Additional fellowship opportunities can be found on www.PSJD.org.
The Equal Justice Works Fellowships are two-year fellowships which provide a salary and loan repayment assistance to lawyers who advocate on behalf of individuals, groups, or interests that are not adequately represented by the civil legal system. The Fellowship accepts applications from experienced as well as recent law school graduates. Their primary interest is to "launch public interest careers." The individual applies along with a proposed non-profit host organization. Depending on funding, Equal Justice Works is able to provide 40-50 two-year fellowships annually.
The fellow's salary is set by the host organization at a level comparable with that of an entry-level attorney. Equal Justice Works will contribute up to $39,000 toward that salary, with the sponsoring agency responsible for the costs of standard fringe benefits.
Equal Justice Works Fellowships were awarded to BC Law alumni in: 2011 (3), 2010 (2), 2008, 2006 (2), 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 (2), 1999, 1998, 1993.
The Skadden Fellowship is funded by a charitable foundation of the international law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The Program awards approximately twenty-five fellowships to graduating law students and outgoing judicial law clerks. The duration of a Skadden Fellowship is one year, with an option for a second year. Each Skadden Fellow's salary is $46,000. The program also pays all fringe benefits as well as all debt service on law school loans for the duration of the Fellowship.
Applicants must secure a potential positions with a sponsoring public interest organization before applying for the Fellowship. The sponsor must be a 501(c)(3) organization which provides civil legal services to the poor, including the working poor, the elderly, the disabled, or those deprived of their civil or human rights. Skadden does not fund fellowships in the area of immigration, environmental, or criminal law.
Skadden Fellowships were awarded to BC Law alumni in: 2011, 1999, 1993.
The Soros Justice Fellowships "support outstanding individuals working in law, organizing, public health, public policy, and other disciplines to initiate innovative projects that will have a measurable impact on issues underlying the U.S. Justice System." The program seeks to identify and nurture new voices and agents-for-change at either the local or national level. Fellowships are two years in duration and support projects designed by the individual to be implemented in conjunction with large or small non-for-profit organizations or government agencies. Fellows are expected to work full-time during the fellowship.
Applicants must have substantive first-hand knowledge of and/or up to three years' experience with the issues and communities with which they propose to work. Applicants may not currently be employed by their proposed host organization and must demonstrate that the project does not duplicate the host organization's existing efforts.
Soros Justice Fellowships were awarded to BC Law alumni in: 2001, 1998.