PIRC Post-Graduate Fellowships

Post-graduate public interest fellowships are wonderful opportunities for recent graduates to secure entry-level positions with non-profit organizations that otherwise might not have the resources to hire them. Most fellowships are for terms of one to two years. Some organizations secure funding to hire fellows after the term of the fellowship.

Some fellowships are available to attorneys with a few years practice experience, while others may be geared to applicants mid-career. Fellowships are available in a wide range of practice areas and settings which include civil legal services, criminal defense/criminal justice, civil rights. Fellowships are available to support work in the United States as well as abroad.

  • Exploring post-graduate fellowships is exciting. It may provide you an opportunity to create your dream job! You will enjoy the process more if you start early. Things to do:

    • Become familiar with the various types of fellowships: project –based, organization-based, entrepreneurial, law school based fellowships, firm-sponsored, prestigious/scholarships, as well as post-graduate government honors program. The summer after your first year is an ideal time to begin. Begin by reviewing resources describing fellowship opportunities, both domestic and international.
    • Attend PIRC programs on post-graduate fellowships during your first and second year. Handouts from this year's programs are available: Post Graduate Public Interest Fellowships: An Overview Of The Process and Post Graduate Criminal Justice Fellowships.
    • Meet with a PIRC counselor in your second year to discuss your interests and particular fellowships.
    • Meet with faculty. Additional support is available from Fordham Law professors who are former fellows or have significant grant writing experience. Faculty advise students on various aspects of the the fellowship application process. PIRC can help partner you with a faculty member.
    • Talk with prior fellows. Current and former fellows are excellent sources of advice. PIRC counselors can help connect with the Fordham Law alumna who are recipients of a wide range of fellowships including those with the ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights, Echoing Green, Equal Justice Works, Fulbright, Georgetown Law Clinical Fellowships, New Voices, the Skadden Foundation.
  • Project –Based Fellowships: The majority of these fellowships are awarded by two organizations, Equal Justice Works and the Skadden Fellowship Foundation.

    • Equal Justice Works (EJW) has one of the largest national public interest fellowship programs providing financial and technical support to lawyers working on innovative and effective legal projects. EJW funds approximately 50 fellows annually. The two-year fellowships offer salary and generous loan repayment assistance, a national training and leadership development program, and other support. Fellows develop and launch projects with host non-profit organizations that benefit individuals or groups and/or promote issues not otherwise adequately represented by the legal system.
    • Skadden Foundation Fellowship (Skadden) awards some 30-35 fellowships yearly to graduating law students and outgoing judicial clerks. Fellows provide legal services to the working poor, elderly, homeless and disabled, as well as to those deprived of their human or civil rights. In recent years, fellows have also worked on issues concerning economic development and community renewal. The aim of the foundation is to give fellows the freedom to pursue their interests in public interest work. Fellowships are for one year, with the expectation of renewal for a second year. For those fellows not covered by a law school loan repayment assistance program, the firm will pay a fellow's law school debt for the duration of the fellowship.

    Organization Based Fellowships: The practice areas of these fellowships are very broad and include children’s rights, civil liberties, health law, media law to name just a few. The organizations are based throughout the country, with a concentration in NYC and Washington, DC. The Comprehensive Fellowship Guide has an extensive list. Some fellowships include:

    • American Civil Liberties (ACLU) which has fellowships in issues and geographic areas including: Aryeh Neier Human Rights Fellowship (NYC), Brennan First Amendment (NYC ), Capital Punishment (Durham, North Carolina), Drug Law Reform (Santa Cruz, CA), National Prison Project (Washington, DC), National Security Applied Research (NYC), Karpatkin Racial Justice (NYC), Reproductive Freedom (NYC) and Women’s Rights (NYC).
    • Equal Justice Works Public Defender Corps provide representation to indigent criminal defendants.
    • Human Rights Watch for fellowships in international human rights.

    Entrepreneurial Fellowships. Funders of such endeavors include:

    • Echoing Green Foundation offers full-time fellowships to emerging social entrepreneurs. The foundation applies a venture capital approach to philanthropy by providing seed money and technical support to individuals creating innovative public interest projects that seek to catalyze positive social change in the U.S. or abroad.
    • The Berkeley Law Foundation funds two grants per year to individuals undertaking public interest law projects that will serve legally disadvantaged or politically under-represented groups and views the grants as seed money for innovative projects that will immediately provide sorely needed legal services and continue providing such services for years to come.

    Fordham Law School Sponsored Fellowships. Fordham Law sponsors the James E. Tolan Fellowship in International Human Rights is a post-graduate Fellowship that will fund a Fordham Law School graduate to work for an international human rights organization for one year. Three Tolan fellowships were awarded in 2009.

    Law School Based/Clinical Fellowships: A growing number of law schools are offering fellowships to work in clinical programs. The Comprehensive Fellowship Guide has a section of such fellowships. One of the largest such programs is based at Georgetown University Law Center, through its Clinical Graduate Fellowship Opportunities in Teaching & Advocacy which offer new and experienced attorneys the opportunity to combine study with practice in the fields of clinical legal education and public interest advocacy. Each fellowship is associated with one of the Law Center's clinical programs.

    Firm Sponsored Fellowships: Several private firms sponsor fellowships which allow entry-level attorneys to work primarily or exclusively on pro bono matters either at the firm or at a partnering organization, for example:

    • Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP (Fried Frank) sponsors fellowships with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and InMotion which give junior lawyers the chance to spend two years in the litigation department of Fried Frank's New York office and then two years at either the LDF or MALDEF, or to spend one year as a Fried Frank litigator and then one year as a staff attorney at InMotion. After satisfactory completion of the program, fellows may return to Fried Frank, with full seniority, or if there are openings, they may continue to work as staff attorneys with LDF, MALDEF, or InMotion.
    • The John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest & Constitutional Law is housed at Gibbons P.C. and provides for fellows to undertake public interest and constitutional law projects and litigation on behalf of public interest organizations, legal services or public defender offices, government agencies, private non-profit corporations, courts, and individuals.

    Prestigious Fellowships and Scholarships: Fordham University’s own

    • Campion Institute/Office of Prestigious Fellowships and Scholarships prepares students to compete for such scholarships and fellowships as the Rhodes, British Marshall, Fulbright, George Mitchell, and Luce.

    Government Honors Programs: Many of the programs, sometimes considered as fellowships, provide a guarantee of permanent employment upon successful completion of the program.

    • Government Honors & Internship Handbook, an on-line resource, (contact the CPC ([email protected]) or PIRC ([email protected]) to obtain current username and password) contains an excellent directory of many of the federal, and some state and city government offices and agency which offer honors programs for recent graduates. The directory includes application timelines/deadlines.
  • Post-graduate public interest fellowships are wonderful opportunities for recent graduates to secure entry-level positions with non-profit organizations that otherwise might not have the resources to hire them. Most fellowships are for terms of one to two years. Some organizations secure funding to hire fellows after the term of the fellowship.

    Learn more about post-graduate public interest fellowships.