By Amelia Patrick
Annually, Washington Council of Lawyers hosts Fellowships 101, where law students and aspiring public-interest lawyers learn about the fellowship process and receive concrete tips for creating a successful fellowship application. This year’s event was virtual, but our expert panelists made the experience interactive and helpful. The panel was moderated by Ayuda’s Language Access Director, Washington Council of Lawyers Board Member, and former Skadden fellow David Steib. The panelists included:
- Linda Anderson Stanley, Senior Fellowships Program Manager, Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Program
- Krissy Colvin, Fellowships Program Manager, Equal Justice Works
- Jennifer Lavallee, Supervising Attorney, Consumer Law Unit, Legal Aid of the District of Columbia
- Sharion Scott, Skadden Fellow, Advancement Project
Throughout the event, each panelist gave a broad overview of their interaction with the fellowship process.
Linda Anderson Stanley is a Senior Fellowship Program Manager at Equal Justice Works. Linda’s work is with the cohort fellows. The cohort model promotes opportunities for fellows to work in different issue areas defined by Equal Justice Works. Linda described the multistep process for the cohort model. First, Equal Justice Works decides on an issue area or community in need. Next, they find funding for that cohort program as a whole. Most of Equal Justice Works cohort funding comes from private organizations or the government with some of the top donors being: the Kellogg Foundation, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the Department of Justice, local foundations, and bar organizations. After the funding for the cohort program is secured, Equal Justice Works solicits host organizations through a competitive application and vetting process. Once Equal Justice Works selects the host organizations, the host organizations conduct the fellow hiring process. Cohort fellows apply directly to the host organization for fellow positions. Cohort fellowship positions open up on a rolling basis depending on the program and the opportunities available. More information about the Cohort Fellowship Program is available here.
Krissy Colvin also works for Equal Justice Works as a Fellowships Program Manager with the Design Your Own Fellowship Program. This type of fellowship is also known as a project-based fellowship. With the Design Your Own Fellowship, aspiring fellows create legal projects and work alongside their host organization to apply for Equal Justice Works fellowship funding. This process requires the aspiring fellow to find their own host organization, which will host and supervise the project. The Equal Justice Works application process is highly competitive and follows a strict timeline every year. About 450 to 475 applications are submitted per annual cycle and between 70-80 fellowships are awarded. Additionally, the average applicant takes between 40 and 100 hours to complete the application with many of those hours being spent planning with their host organization, editing, and receiving feedback. Details about Equal Justice Works’ project-based fellowship program and information sessions for candidates can be found here.
Jennifer Lavallee is a supervising attorney at an organization that hosts many fellows: Legal Aid of the District of Columbia. Every year, Legal Aid of D.C. reviews its current projects in order to identify areas for potential growth. Then around June or July, they post a fellowship opening on a website like PSJD, Idealist, Washington Council of Lawyer’s Public Interest Clearinghouse, or law schools’ career sites. Jennifer said that the postings look different every year as sometimes they are looking for the fellow to fulfill a specific role and other times they leave it more open-ended so that the fellow can create their own sustainable project that aligns with Legal Aid’s mission. She noted that Legal Aid tries to find prospective fellows who are not only excited about their project but also have the intention to stay at Legal Aid long-term, as it is very common for them to hire their fellows post-fellowship. This happened to Jennifer as she was an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Recovery Fellow with Legal Aid who took a full-time position there after the end of her fellowship.
Jennifer also shared that the application process is intensive for the host organization too. The host organization is committed to the student and the project, so they work hard to create a compelling, well-researched, quality application with the student. Jennifer says it is not uncommon to go through at least 3 rounds of drafting, revisions, and calls with the candidate. In evaluating what host organization would be a good fit for your project, Jennifer suggested asking the organization if they’ve hosted fellows previously; if they are familiar with the application process; if they’ve been previously been successful in the application process; and what support the organization can provide during the process.
Then Sharion Scott, a current Skadden Fellow at the Advancement Project, shared her experience with the Skadden application process. Sharion’s project focuses on rights restoration for individuals with felony convictions. Her experience was different than some fellowship candidates, as she did not apply for fellowships during her 3L year. Instead, she was in a judicial clerkship when she began the application process. However, she was previously aware of fellowships as an option because one of her law professors mentioned to her that she would be a good candidate for a fellowship, specifically mentioning the Skadden fellowship. Even though Sharion would not be applying during her 3L year, she knew that a fellowship was something she wanted to pursue after her clerkship. So, she made decisions regarding internships, networking, clinics, and externships that would help her future application. Sharion’s experience demonstrates the planning, connections, and assistance required for a successful fellowship application. Information about the Skadden Fellowship, including information sessions, is available here.
The panelists ended their conversation by giving final words of wisdom. Jennifer counseled candidates to never give up on a public-interest career. Linda encouraged law school students to get involved in clinics, externships, and internships now to determine their areas of interest. Krissy advised law students to apply for many fellowship opportunities with an open mind because public interest law is usually a vocational calling. Additionally, Krissy noted that the Equal Justice Works law school engagement and advocacy team hosts summer programming for law students, which you can find on their website and linked below. Sharion’s recommendation was Skadden specific. She recommends contacting current and former Skadden Fellows because they can aid you in many ways during your application process. They can help you with your application, let you see their application, conduct a mock interview with you, and write a letter of recommendation on your behalf to the foundation. David agrees that connections are important and stated that the public-interest lawyers at this event want to be a connection and offer help to aspiring fellows. Our own Christina Jackson finished off the event with some advice. She encouraged each law student to connect with their career development office at their law school as they can help students make a plan for their fellowship journey, edit applications, complete mock interviews, and provide invaluable connections and insight.
PSDJ Information Session
The event also included an informational session with Sam Halpert from NALP on how to search for fellowship project ideas, host organizations, and other resources online on PSJD. These are the top tips from the session:
- PSJD is a public interest clearinghouse to help lawyers and law students find jobs, fellowships, and other career opportunities (Learn more about PSJD here).
- Most ABA-accredited law school students and alumni have free access to PSJD.
- When looking for a fellowship on PSJD, there are different categories, which align with the panelists’ discussion. The categories are:
- Project-based fellowships:
- Fellowships, like Skadden and EJW, require a two-part process. First, the prospective fellow finds a host organization. Next, the fellow and host organizations apply to the third-party funders.
- Organizational fellowships:
- Fellowships in which the host organization funds the fellowship.
- Clinical/Academic fellowships:
- Fellowships in which the host organization is an academic institution, such as a university, and funds the fellowship themselves.
- Non-legal fellowships:
- Are not located in the fellowship portion of the PSJD database, but it is good to know that these exist. These positions can offer diverse ways for one to use their legal degree, especially in regard to policy.
- Benefits of using PSJD to find fellowship opportunities:
- Many employers list positions
- Many organizations that provide funding also list opportunities
- Specialized search tool
- A calendar which lists all archived opportunities, so prospective fellows can look at the opportunities offered in the past to help them prepare for the future
- Continual updates
- Previous employers/funding organizations regularly are contacted so as many opportunities as possible are listed
- Project-based fellowships:
Important Dates and Links
Equal Justice Works:
- Due: September 20, 2021
- Application information link: Become a Fellow: Design-Your-Own Fellowship
- Upcoming information sessions registration:
- Currently recruiting fellows for the Elder Justice Program on a rolling basis: Become a Fellow: Elder Justice Program
- Information link for all Cohort Fellowship Programs: Join a Fellowship Program
- Due: September 10, 2021
- Notification of fellowship: November 11, 2021
- Application information link: Skadden Fellowship Application Information
- Past information sessions recordings:
- Upcoming information session link for applicants:
- Tuesday, August 3, at 4:00 pm; Password- Fellowship2022
Amelia Patrick is our 2021 Summer Intern.