Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowships
Many people come to law school with dreams of using their legal careers to make the world a better place.
Public interest fellowships are a fabulous way of making that dream a reality. In fact, fellowships collectively are the largest source of entry-level public interest jobs in non-profit organizations, government agencies, public interest law firms and clinical academic settings. Fellowships are short-term (usually one or two-year), full-time public interest positions for new or recent law graduates. Many organizations hire fellows for permanent positions at the conclusion of fellowships. Fellowships offer both substantive and geographic flexibility and provide excellent experience and exposure, which can be critical to finding subsequent public interest employment. The following pages can help you begin to understand and identify some of the most common fellowship options.
- Project fellowships are designed to fund the creation of new, innovative public interest law projects. Applicants must develop a project proposal, usually in conjunction with a host organization. Skadden and Equal Justice Works are the most well-known project fellowship sponsors.
- Organizational fellowships are established positions within existing organizations offered either at pre-determined intervals (e.g., every one or two years) or as funding allows. Hundreds of organizational fellowships are available every year within non-profit organizations, agencies, as well as a handful of for-profit law firms.
- Georgetown Partner Fellowships are opportunities designed only for recent Georgetown graduates, created in partnership with a number of non-profit or local government offices in DC and around the country. These fellowships are usually one-year opportunities at organizations that rarely hire new graduates for entry-level positions and that open doors for fellows within those organizations or similar ones in the field. Historically, Georgetown has supported Partner Fellowships at entities such as: DC Office of the Attorney General, ACLU of Virginia, Lawyer’s Without Borders, Catholic Charities, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Environmental Working Group, Campaign Legal Center and the DC Office of the Mayor.
- Georgetown Justice Fellowships provide partial funding ($20,000) towards one year fellowships at nonprofits, government offices, and other eligible host organizations. The Georgetown Justice Grants are available each year for that year’s graduating JD Class and the application is open to candidates of all ABA-Accredited law schools in the US. Process and Application for Georgetown Justice Fellowships
- Clinical teaching fellowships are short-term positions with law school clinical programs. Most combine public interest practice with academic study or teaching, and some offer a degree at the end of the fellowship. These positions are rare for new graduates and typically require 3-5 years of practice experience.
- DC Affordable Law Firm (DCALF), provides a fellowship experience for new graduates to serve as staff attorneys, providing affordable legal services to DC residents in a breadth of practice areas, including family law, immigration, and probate law. Additionally, Fellows enrolled in this 15-month program will receive an LL.M in Advocacy and 12 weeks of intensive subject area and trial skills training.
Jennie Netburn is OPICS’ primary fellowship counselor and sends regular listserv messages to students interested in exploring this path. OPICS also hosts information sessions and can connect you with former fellows. Email or meet with Jennie to be added to the listserv and chart your fellowship course. OPICS has also collected collects information about Project and Organizational Fellowships in our Fellowship Database. The first sheet of the Database includes over 170 organizational fellowships (sortable by issue area, geography, deadline, and more) and the second sheet includes project fellowship sponsors. The Database has not been updated for the 2021 fellowship cycle, but is a useful snapshot of previous years’ cycles.