What is a Public Interest Law Fellowship?

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By Neetal Parekh on May 05, 2010 7:17 AM

The path to public interest law can feel like the 'road less traveled' among a graduating class of firm-bound or company-aspiring attorneys.  Balancing considerations of mounting debt with scarce job opportunities makes this journey one for the determined.

As you look for a way into the public sector--consider applying to a public interest law fellowship. Not sure? Here are the basics--

fellowship | fel·low·shipfe-lō-shipˈ According to Merriam-Webster, a fellowship is defined as the position of a "person appointed to a position granting a stipend" and allowing for advanced study or research.

And, in general, that holds true for public interest law fellowships as well. The Northeastern University School of Law Post-Graduate Public Interest Fellowship Handbook describes fellowship as generally referring "to positions that award a specific amount of money for a fixed period of time for a specific purpose."

Public interest law fellowships are associated with prestige and competition.  Applicants usually apply in the Fall semester of their 3L year. The applications can be lengthy.  If you are considering applying for any number of fellowships, be ready to plan your schedule around application deadlines and possible interview dates.

A public interest law fellowship is usually awarded for terms ranging one to two years.  During that time the fellow's funding is usually covered by the fellowship stipend, thus availing the fellow to a position that the non-profit organization or research institute may not have been able to financially support.

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