Fellowships are short-term entry-level public service jobs. You should consider fellowships if you want: a) to break into legal jobs with larger, national nonprofit organizations; b) exposure to a broad range of legal issues; and c) to network and find mentoring in the public sector. There are two types: organization-based and project-based.
Organization-based fellowships are usually one to two year positions with nonprofit organizations. They are open to recent graduates and pay on average $20,000 to $50,000 per year. Benefits are usually provided, and sometimes loan repayment assistance is given. Some private law firms sponsor fellowships, and these positions sometimes pay more than fellowships with nonprofit and educational organizations. For example, the John J. Gibbons Fellowship has an annual stipend of $80,000. Fellowships opportunities are available in almost every state in the U.S., though New York and Washington, D.C. tend to have the most. Positions are also available abroad. Organization-based fellowships do not necessarily become permanent positions. An example of an organization-based fellowship is the Karpatkin Fellowship with the ACLU. There are also non-legal fellowships for which law graduates would be competitive, including the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program, the Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship, and others associated with policy, educational, or humanitarian organizations.
Project-based fellowships are also known as grants and awards and provide funding for discrete projects in public interest. To be eligible to receive project-based fellowships, you must be sponsored or hosted by a nonprofit organization. Many organizations that act as sponsors already have specific project ideas; therefore, if you have an interest in a particular subject (e.g., prisoners’ rights, affordable housing) but do not have a project formulated, you may still be able to seek one of these fellowships. The awards are usually intended to provide funding for one year; additional funding can be sought if the project is continued. Two well- known examples of project-based fellowships are the Equal Justice Works Fellowship and the Skadden Fellowship.
There are also a few other subcategories of fellowships. Clinical teaching fellowships act as a gateway to legal academic jobs; they are usually open to candidates with some professional experience. Policy and research fellowships offer an opportunity to work with a non-profit organization or think tank on a specific advocacy or policy area; you can also find funding for a research project. These fellowships often result in publication of articles and essays. Finally, fellowships can also be sponsored by governmental entities such as the NIH, DC City Government, and New York City Government. These subcategories of fellowships can be project- or organization-based.
The best resource for legal fellowship opportunities is PSJD. The Career Development Office maintains a print copy of PSJD’s The Comprehensive Fellowship Guide – The Ultimate Resource for Law Students & Lawyers. You can search for fellowships alphabetically, geographically, and by fellowship hosts. The guide also provides important deadlines. PSJD also maintains an online searchable database of fellowship opportunities. If you set up your own account (free to all Carolina Law students), you can search by opportunities or by organizations and narrow your search by type, practice area, and location. The site also allows you to set up email alerts when opportunities are posted that fit your requirements. The website provides important deadlines and tips for searching for opportunities that match your needs.
For more information and assistance finding fellowship opportunities, please make an appointment with a counselor in the Career Development Office.