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2024 Fellowships 101 Recap

By: Delphine Gareau

On June 3, we welcomed a panel of fellowship directors and student fellows from the Skadden Foundation, Justice Catalyst, and Equal Justice Works to discuss the process of obtaining a fellowship for current law students. 

Our panelists included:

  • Moderator: Jennie Netburn, Georgetown Law Center
  • Zakiya Lewis, Skadden Fellow, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Lee Tremblay, Justice Catalyst Fellow, Legal Voice
  • Kathleen Rubenstein, Skadden Foundation, Executive Director
  • Jessican Ryckman, Equal Justice Works, Director of fellowships

For law students pursuing public interest law, fellowships are one of the most effective postgraduate pathways into a career. Our two fellow panelists spoke about their unique exposure to extensive legal experience as well as the combined learning from seasoned professionals and a cohort of attorney fellows. Fellows benefit from the institutional memory of their host organizations, gain access to a public interest alumni community, engage in meaningful work, and receive support as they begin their careers. 

Each foundation represented in our panel has unique goals, programming, and robust alumni networks to support fellows in their projects. The Skadden Foundation specifically funds projects addressing unmet civil legal needs of people living in poverty in the United States. Skadden requires hosts to have at least two full-time attorneys specializing in civil legal advocacy who can supervise fellow projects. Equal Justice Works looks for fellows addressing a wide array of issues and communities in need of access to justice. The organization requires fellows to be paid the same as someone similarly situated at the host organization and does not fund standard criminal defense or international law. Justice Catalyst has a smaller fellowship program that focuses on impact litigation and nontraditional approaches to systemic change. For more information on each program, please see the websites linked above. 

Our panelists discussed how to explore options for project ideas and host organizations. One fellow suggested starting by reflecting on issue areas that have inspired you throughout law school– when has a legal injustice ignited passion? While some students might have a very clear idea of the organizations they want to work with post-grad, others have absolutely no idea– and that is okay too! When selecting a host organization to build your fellowship project, students should look for those with a strong track record of client representation and skill development for new attorneys. You want your host organization to be fully committed to your project as well as transparent about employment terms even before you are accepted as a fellow. Some organizations are looking for students with a fully fleshed-out project, and others advertise their own projects– either way, work with board members to design a project that fits with your fellowship vision. 

Now is the perfect time for rising 3L law students to start thinking about applying for fellowships. The Skadden Foundation, Equal Justice Works, and Justice Catalyst all have approaching application deadlines in September. We heard from fellowship directors who advised prospective applicants to craft a clear, typo-free narrative that demonstrates how your project will have an impact on underserved communities in need. When it comes to the interviewing process, candidates should come in with confidence, excitement, and a clear goal for interviewers to take away. Fellowship directors want you to succeed– reaching out for their insights on your overall application and project is encouraged.

 At the end of the panel, we heard from the National Association for Law Placement’s PSJD initiative which categorizes public service legal jobs into a free database for prospective applicants. PSJC is a valuable resource that can serve students in finding host organizations for fellowships and other public interest job opportunities. 

Our Fellowships 101 panel revealed the many benefits and considerations involved in pursuing postgraduate public interest fellowships. Not only do fellows receive unique legal experience specific to attorney’s career interests early on in their careers with organizations dedicated to expanding access to justice, but they also join well-connected communities of public interest lawyers across the country. We encourage you to explore these pathways further.

Delphine Gareau is Washington Council of Lawyer’s 2024 Summer Intern and a rising junior at Boston College.

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