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All Fellowships: Interviews and Selection Process


Public interest fellowship application processes are very competitive, and only the strongest candidates will be selected for interviews. For many fellowships the interview is crucial. If you receive a fellowship interview, you must prepare, prepare, and prepare some more! The Assistant Dean for Public Interest will help you engage in multiple mock interviews. It is also important to speak to as many former fellows and past applicants who have gone to interviews as possible.

You must display passion, enthusiasm, excitement, and energy in your interview. Funders want to see fellows who are truly and unapologetically passionate about the communities they plan to serve. You must also be prepared to talk details. Funders want to select people whom they believe can translate their passion into concrete advocacy.

Some applicants prepare a handout about their projects to give to their interviewers. If you choose to do so, make sure that you keep it simple and short. The handout should not be text-heavy. It is most appropriate if your ideas revolve around information that can best be conveyed visually, such as a map of the service area you intend to cover or a flow chart demonstrating how various community partners will refer cases to you.

Wyatt Sassman '12 "Share your passions and get excited. All public interest lawyers chose to do the work they do. [Interviewers] want to make sure you know you are making that choice, and that you are confident and excited about your choice. Don't be nervous, be ecstatic! Your interview is an opportunity to live the legal career of your dreams. That is a reason to celebrate--so show it!"
Wyatt Sassman '12,
Southern Environmental Law Center Associate Attorney
(two-year organizational fellowship)

You should be prepared to answer questions about any recent media coverage of issues related to your proposed project.

Some of the questions you can anticipate in fellowship interviews are:

General questions

  • Why are you interested in public interest work?
  • Why are you passionate about [the particular issue on which you'd be working]?
  • How have your experiences in law school prepared you for this fellowship?
  • Have you talked to XX (current or former fellow working on your issue or in your proposed geographic area)?
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  • Did you apply to any other fellowships? Clerkships? What other job prospects are you pursuing?
  • What questions do you have for us? What questions were you prepared to answer that we did not ask you?

Project-based fellowship questions

  • How did you come up with your project idea?
  • Why is this project particularly needed?
  • What will be your client population? How will you relate to them? What past experiences do you have working with this population?
  • How will you get cases?
  • What will be the impact of your project? How will you measure the success of your project?
  • Why did you choose to work with your host organization? Have you worked with it before?
  • Who will supervise you?
  • What challenges do you believe you will encounter in implementing your project, and how will you address them?

Organization-based fellowship questions

  • What most interests you about our organization?
  • Why are you drawn to [the particular issue on which you would work]?
  • What prior experience do you have working with an organization like ours?
  • Why do you believe you would be a good fit with our office?

Law-firm based fellowship questions

  • What do you see as the ideal balance between private and public interest legal work?
  • What are your aspirations for your future practice?
  • Why are you interested in our firm in particular?

Entrepreneurial fellowship questions

  • Have you ever started a program or organization from scratch? Tell us about it.
  • Why can't the need you've identified be addressed through existing resources?
  • What do you think will be the biggest challenges you will encounter, and how do you anticipate meeting them?
  • What allies do you plan on partnering with in getting your idea off the ground?
  • What would it take to sustain your project or organization once our funding terminates?

Clinical fellowship questions

  • Why are you interested in working with law students?
  • What in your background prepares you for the teaching aspect of this position?
  • Can you tell us about your own clinical experience as a law student?
  • Do you hope to teach in a law school clinic some day?

After the interview, you should follow up with a professional and tasteful thank you note to your interviewers.

Informal Advocacy throughout the Selection Process

Even before you submit your fellowship application, you should be cultivating a network of supporters who will advocate for you throughout the process. The Assistant Dean for Public Interest is a critical member of your support team and can help you map out and implement an informal advocacy campaign to support your application. Former fellows, past public-interest employers, professors with relevant practice experience, and well-known advocates in the field are particularly well-positioned to weigh in on your behalf.

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