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Project-Based Fellowships

Project-based fellowships might be a good fit for you if...

  • You are interested in proposing a new way to address the unmet legal needs of an underserved population or constituency
  • You have developed the skills, experience, and relationships that would allow you to develop and implement such a project
  • You know that you want to work on a specific issue and/or in a specific location in which entry-level attorney openings are limited

Project-based fellowships are funded by foundations that provide support for a recent law graduate to carry out a project in conjunction with an existing non-profit organization ("host organization"). Fellows typically propose to expand the scope of the host organization's existing legal services, often by developing a new advocacy strategy or reaching a new target population. Each foundation that funds project-based fellowships has its own criteria governing the types of projects it will support and the eligibility of applicants and host organizations. See the comparison chart below, which focuses on three of the major foundations.

Application deadlines for most project-based fellowships are in the fall preceding the year in which the fellowship will commence. Usually, this means that the application will be due in fall of your 3L year or the year during which you are clerking. These applications require significant preparatory work in advance of the application deadline. It is often helpful to work as an intern or extern with your host organization prior to applying for a fellowship. Doing so helps you learn about the type of work the organization does, identify project ideas, and ensure that you and the organization are a good fit. It also demonstrates to funders that you and the organization are committed to one another.

Major Project-Based Fellowship Funders Comparison Chart


Equal Justice Works

Skadden Fellowship

Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship

Applicant Eligibility

With a few exceptions, any graduate of an Equal Justice Works member law school (including Vanderbilt) is eligible to apply, though the fellowship is geared towards recent graduates. Applicants must be 3L students or judicial clerks. Soros will fund outstanding individuals working from a range of perspectives on criminal justice reform, including but not limited to legal advocacy. Advocates who have just completed post-graduate studies (such as law school) and those with several years of work experience are eligible.

Host Organization Eligibility

Organization must be a 501(c)(3) with the capacity to provide legal supervision. Organization must be a 501(c)(3), with at least two attorneys on staff, that provides some sort of civil legal services to the poor. Applicants are encouraged, but not required, to partner with a host organization. Host organizations may be advocacy or community groups, research institutions, government agencies, or other nonprofit organizations or associations.

Project Eligibility

Legal advocacy on behalf of individuals or groups not adequately represented in the legal system. EJW will not fund routine criminal defense work. All EJW projects must be supported by a project sponsor (usually a law firm, bar association, or individual). The geographic and issue-area preferences of sponsors significantly affect which projects will be funded. Civil legal assistance to the poor and those deprived of their civil or human rights. Skadden will not fund fellows to engage in direct criminal defense work (though fellows may serve the civil legal needs of persons involved in the juvenile and criminal systems). Projects must seek to reform the criminal justice system in some manner, e.g., through litigation, policy advocacy, or grassroots organizing.

Award Amount and Duration

Two years. EJW Fellows in project-based positions are paid the standard salary for the host organization's entry-level attorneys; EJW awards host organizations $41,000 annually and the organization pays any difference. Host organizations also must provide Fellows with their standard benefits. Fellows are eligible to apply for EJW loan repayment assistance. Two years. Skadden provides each Fellow with a salary (the 2012 annual salary was $46,000) and the standard fringe benefits offered at the host organization. Loan repayment assistance is available, though fellows must first avail themselves of any other loan repayment plans for which they are eligible. Eighteen months. Fellows receive $75,000 total as a stipend. In addition, Soros provides Fellows some financial support for loan repayment, health insurance, and professional development.

Application Deadline and Timeline (deadlines are similar year over year)

September 28, 2017. Offers are made in December-February. EJW provides monthly e-mail updates to applicants regarding the status of their applications.

September 18, 2017. Candidates are notified in late October or early November of whether they will be offered an interview. Final decisions in early December.

In early-mid December all applicants will be notified of whether they have been selected as a finalist. Finalist interviews are held in January and selected fellows are notified in February.

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