Post-graduate fellowships are entry-level, time-limited positions, and are often the only avenue to do entry-level work at prominent national non-profit organizations. These fellowships are wonderful opportunities for students to have more choice in pursuing public interest employment.
Post-graduate fellowships take many forms. Project-based fellowships involve third-party funding to work at another organization. Equal Justice Works and the Skadden Fellowship Program are the two largest project-based fellowships. Part of the application procedure involves developing a project to do during the one- or two-year fellowship period.
Organization-based fellowships are provided by the non-profit organizations themselves. There are hundreds of these around the country. Applying for these is more like applying for most jobs; you submit a cover letter, resume, and references, but do not have to create your own project.
Teaching fellowships can be divided into several different types. One type provides a degree in clinical teaching; Georgetown Law Center offers the largest such program. There, fellows work in nine or so different clinics, receive instruction in teaching and in the subject matter of the clinic, act as an instructor in the clinic and an attorney for the clinic's clients, receive a salary and benefits, and receive an LLM at the end of the two-year program. Many other law schools offer fellowships to prepare lawyers for academic careers where fellows work at law school clinics and centers, in public interest work, or research and writing. This work may or may not lead to an LLM degree.
Entrepreneurial fellowships take two forms: 1) You can write a grant to raise funds so that an organization could hire you; or 2) You can create your own 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. This latter is probably the most complicated approach.
Firm-sponsored fellowships are increasing and come in several forms: 1) The firm places the fellow with a non-profit organization, such as legal services, for a set period, with or without a commitment or expectation that the person returns to the firm; 2) The fellow works within the law firm in a designated position on a law firm pro bono project; or 3) A public interest law firm hires an entry-level attorney with a commitment to a limited period of employment.
Students who know they will be interested in applying for a post-graduate fellowship are encouraged to begin the process early. Many of the deadlines are very early the 3L year, so your application should be almost complete when you return to school. Some students start the process as early as their first year by choosing as their first summer employer someone whom they think might be a good sponsor for their application.
The process of searching for post-graduate fellowships has been greatly aided by PSLawNet, which publishes an online fellowship database with hundreds of fellowship programs and indispensable resource guides that explain the application process in detail. Most of the fellowships are for new law graduates or up to ten years out. Duke Law School subscribes to PSLawNet for use by Duke Law students and alumni. To use the Fellowship Guide, visit http://www.pslawnet.org/ and register as a Duke Law student or alumni. Once in, be sure to see the list of application deadlines, the database, and the resource guides for both domestic and international fellowship opportunities.
Students interested in applying for post-graduate fellowships should be sure that the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono as well as the Career Center know about your plans. You should seek assistance from them in the fellowship process and, if you are seeking a project-based fellowship, the organization you are applying to can also give you a great deal of help on your application once they have decided to sponsor you.
Interested Duke Law alumni and students are invited to join Duke Law's post-graduate fellowship listserv for the latest news on fellowship opportunities.