DCALF LL.M. Fellowship Program Overview

Each year, Georgetown places up to six fellows with DC Affordable Law Firm (DCALF) for a 15-month fellowship, where they serve dual roles of continuing student and DCALF employee.  DCALF is a non-profit law firm, based in DC, delivering free and low-cost legal services to people with incomes that typically fall between 200%-400% above the federal poverty level. Historically, individuals from modest-income households have been left on their own when seeking access to justice, finding themselves ineligible for traditional forms of free legal services yet unable to afford private counsel. In the District of Columbia, over 125,000 residents fall within that income range. As a result, a significant number of DC residents appear pro se in legal proceedings that have potentially significant and long-term consequences.

In response to this access to justice gap, in 2015, Georgetown University Law Center, ArentFox Schiff LLP, and DLA Piper LLP joined to create DC Affordable Law Firm (DCALF). DCALF is a charitable non-profit that provides legal services to Washington, DC residents in the “forgotten middle” – individuals with modest incomes who do not qualify for traditional forms of free civil legal services and would otherwise be forced to “go-it-alone” in addressing legal problems—ranging from child custody disputes, immigration, probate, and estate matters. DCALF believes everyone deserves access to justice, and that income should not be a barrier to high-quality legal representation. DCALF’s innovative services empower community members with unmet legal needs, while also launching the careers of public interest lawyers committed to accessible justice.  In 2020, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) joined as a fourth partner, allowing DCALF to serve more DC residents and expand its fellowship program to include law graduates from both educational institutions.

Through the legal representation provided by post-graduate fellows from Georgetown and UDC Law and DCALF’s staff of veteran attorneys, DCALF is able to serve hundreds of DC residents each year, meeting its mission of providing a full spectrum of high quality, accessible legal services to DC residents with unmet legal needs who cannot secure representation elsewhere.

In sum, DCALF bridges a gap in legal services, changes DC’s legal landscape, and makes accessible justice a reality.

The DCALF L.L.M. Fellowship Program

The DCALF Fellowship is primarily open to graduating JD students from both Georgetown Law and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. Beginning in 2024-2025, it also will be open to one DC-barred Georgetown Law graduate with one-to-three years post-graduate experience. Annually, DCALF will hire up to six Georgetown Law Fellows and three University of District of Columbia Law Fellows. All hired fellows will also be enrolled in Georgetown’s LL.M. program, earning a fully funded LL.M. in Advocacy and a competitive public interest salary for successful completion of the 15-month program.

Fellows receive intensive training during the first eight weeks of the Fall semester. The training program covers a range of topics, including lawyering and litigation skills, substantive law in DCALF’s primary practice areas (family law, immigration law, and probate/estate planning), and law firm management and practice. Fellows also have opportunities to explore the access to justice crisis in DC, how to engage in client-centered and trauma-aware lawyering, how to challenge assumptions and practice cultural humility, and how to support DCALF’s work toward anti-racism, equity, and inclusion. Following eight weeks of training, fellows engage in direct representation of clients in DCALF’s practice areas, gaining invaluable direct representation experiences and mentorship from veteran attorneys across the 15-month program. Fellows also receive additional, relevant trainings once they are anchored in the practice of law. DCALF fellows graduate with a range of lawyering and litigation skills, an appreciation for the importance of access to justice, and the professional competence to represent a client population with great legal needs in DC, and across the country.

Post-Fellowship Employment Outcomes

DCALF alumni have gone on to work for a variety of public and private employers, including:
• Legal Aid DC
• D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center
• Children’s Law Center
• D.C. Volunteer Lawyers Project
• Disability Rights D.C.
• Public Defender Offices
• D.C. Superior Court (clerkships)
• Family and immigration law firms
• University Title IX offices

For more information on DCALF and the organization’s specific practice areas, please visit its website: https://www.dcaffordablelaw.org/.