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Appendix A: Checklist for Developing a Project-Based Fellowship Application

This checklist is a guide to the questions you should ask yourself, and the steps you should take, as you prepare to pursue a project-based fellowship. You should familiarize yourself with this checklist as a 1L, and begin to develop answers to the questions in it during your 2L year. Do not feel, however, that you must have answers to these questions prior to meeting with the Assistant Dean for Public Interest. You and the Assistant Dean can work through them together.

(Special thanks to 2007 Skadden Fellow, Jennifer Hill, for her assistance in developing this list.)


Clients, Communities, Services, and Impact

In what geographic area do you want to work?

There are generally more opportunities and resources in large coastal cities like New York, Washington D.C., or San Francisco. However, many of these opportunities are extremely competitive. In general, the more geographically flexible you are, the more opportunities you will have.

  • Do you have a connection to this geographic area – personal or work history?
  • If you do not have a preference, please identify geographic areas in which you have worked or with which you have a personal connection.

With what client group(s) do you most want to work?

  • Have you worked with this group in the past? Please describe when, where, and around what sorts of issues.
  • Do you have the necessary language skills to communicate with those clients? If not, you should make a plan to develop those skills or pick a different client group.

What sorts of problems do you think you'd like to work to address, or what areas of law are of interest to you?

  • Why do you believe these problems must be addressed? How do they affect communities you want to work with?
  • Have you worked in this issue area before? In what capacity?
  • How many individuals in the community of interest to you are experiencing this sort of problem?

What are the legal and advocacy strategies you want deploy to address these problems?

  • Please identify the local, state, federal, or international law(s) under which you will provide services.
  • Please identify the administrative body, court, or other forum(s) in which you will represent clients.

What will be the impact of the advocacy strategies you use or the services you will provide?

  • For your clients?
  • For the client population as a whole?
  • For the community?

Host Organizations

Which are the leading organizations doing work in the field that interests you or the geographic area you want to work in?

  • If you do not know, how will you find out?
  • Have you worked with any of these organizations/individuals?
  • Do any of these organizations have a current Skadden Fellow? EJW Fellow? Have they hosted these or any other sort of fellow in the past?

To determine whether a potential host organization has the capacity to sponsor and supervise you, ask the following:

  • Are there attorneys at the host organization who practice the kind of law you plan to practice?
  • Does the organization already work with the client population in which you are interested? If so, what services are currently provided?
  • If you plan on litigating in federal court, are there attorneys who do federal court litigation, even if they litigate different sorts of claims?
  • Identify which organizations are Legal Services Corporation (LSC)-funded and which are not. Note that LSC programs, which include most organizations with the words "Legal Aid" in their name, operate under a number of restrictions on whom they can serve and what kind of projects they can undertake. They can be wonderful host organizations, but within distinct parameters. Both the Assistant Dean for Public Interest and the potential host organization can help you determine whether your idea falls within those parameters.

Try to determine what the process is for securing a sponsorship commitment from these host organizations:

  • Have any of these potential organizations posted a notice (either on their websites or on PSJD) seeking fellowship candidates for a particular sort of project?
  • If the organization has posted a notice, what is the project they describe?
  • Does the organization advertise for candidates in the summer, or does the organization respond to candidate inquiries?
  • Who is the decision-maker in the organization that makes the ultimate call as to whether to sponsor a given candidate?

Developing your application

  1. Look on funders' websites at descriptions to familiarize yourself with projects they have funded in the past.
  2. Carry out informational interviews with former fellows and leaders in the field in which you are interested. Take notes, incorporate their thoughts into your project proposal, and send thank you emails.
  3. Review the application processes and timelines for the fellowships of interest. Make sure that you, your project, and your host organization will meet their criteria, and that you are prepared to provide all information requested in the application.
  4. Identify the professors and/or supervisors who will write letters of recommendation.
  5. Identify who at your host organization will be preparing the fellowship sponsor's letter. Make a plan for exchanging drafts of your application and their sponsor letter.
  6. If your host organization does not have past experience with successful fellowship applications, you will need to work closely with the Assistant Dean for Public Interest to provide support and feedback to the host organization. You also will need to budget extra time for completing the application.
  7. In conjunction with the Assistant Dean for Public Interest, create a calendar for drafting, seeking feedback, rewriting/editing, and proofreading your application materials.


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