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The Chayes Fellowships are dedicated to the memory of Professor Abram Chayes, who taught at Harvard Law School for more than 40 years. These summer fellowships provide Harvard Law School students with the opportunity to spend 8 weeks engaged in international public service within governments of developing nations and those making transitions to peace, stability and democracy, as well as the inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations that support these efforts. Chayes Fellows’ projects can take a variety of forms, but could focus on development of legal, political, social and economic institutions, constitutional and legal issues in emerging democracies, or reconstruction of war-torn societies, among others.

The program not only allows a cadre of Harvard Law School students to offer their skills to governments and organizations undertaking critical work, but also provides students with practical, first-hand experience with the complex issues faced by societies in development or transition. Chayes Fellows become part of a global network of academics and practitioners and are invited to attend periodic meetings at Harvard with prominent international guest speakers.

The Chayes Fellowship program is co-administered by Harvard Law School’s International Legal Studies and the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA).


Chayes Fellowships are awarded to HLS J.D. students who have completed at least one year of law school by the coming summer and to in-residence HLS S.J.D. students. The fellowships are intended to support public service work in non-profit or governmental organizations concerned with issues of an international scope or relevant to countries in transition. HLS students previously awarded Chayes Fellowships are eligible to apply as long as they meet all other eligibility guidelines.

Placement Organizations

Since Chayes Fellowships are international in nature, it is expected that placements will take place with organizations based outside of the United States. Only on rare occasions will it be acceptable for a fellow to work in the U.S., and then only with an organization that has an international scope.

In looking for summer placements, students should draw on the wealth of experiences of HLS students, staff, and alumni. Staff and student liaisons at the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising and the Chayes Fellowship Program are available to discuss potential placement organizations and make recommendations to interested students. Also, former Chayes Fellows can serve as a resource. To obtain contact information for past Chayes Fellows, please see our list of past Chayes Fellows. Student evaluations of summer placements and of the Chayes program can be found on the main Chayes page and in OPIA’s online job search database.

Beginning in the fall, students who are interested in the Chayes Fellowship program may explore a number of options in order to secure an approved placement.

  1. The Chayes Fellowship Program will provide a regularly updated list of pre-approved placement organizations that are interested in hosting a Chayes Fellow for the summer whose interests and skills match the needs of the organization. These authorized placement organizations will be screened to ensure that their work fits within the general parameters of the Chayes program. NOTE: a student who secures a position at a pre-approved organization may still be required to obtain additional details about the specific work s/he will undertake, and receive written approval from the Chayes Program.
  2. Harvard Law School students who are interested in working with organizations that are not on the roster of authorized placements are encouraged to inquire with the Chayes Fellowship Program about registering organizations as Chayes Fellowship placement sites. Potential placement organizations are asked to complete and submit a placement form to the Chayes Fellowship Program for final approval of the placement. For more information, please see here.

Between November and March, students should be in contact with prospective placement organizations to discuss the nature of the summer work, present their qualifications, and try to secure a firm offer of a position. Students are encouraged to apply to a number of organizations and it can take time to secure an appropriate international placement.

We encourage students to begin seeking a placement as early as possible, and follow up with email and fax correspondence and phone calls when necessary. Although it is not required to have a specific placement secured until March 31, students should have been in contact with possible placement organizations by the time the Chayes Fellowship Program holds interviews with applicants in February.

Students who are not selected as Chayes fellows but are offered positions with approved Chayes organizations are welcome to work for those organizations provided that the position is not conditioned upon participation in the Chayes Program. Students who receive Summer Public Interest Funding may use it to defray the cost of their summer travel and living expenses for work with approved Chayes organizations.


Fellows will have a variety of responsibilities that could range from research projects on topics of particular interest to the host organization, to the development and implementation of programmatic initiatives, to other tasks, depending on the needs of the placement organization and skills of the Fellow. Students should review the Responsibilities of Placement Organizations carefully and be sure that the potential placement organization understands the parameters of the Chayes Fellowship.

Once a placement has been secured and approved, students should remain in contact with their supervisor in order to continue to obtain as much information as possible about the project(s) on which they will be working and the specific roles and responsibilities that they will be assigned, as well as any expected end-products.

Past Projects

The exact nature of the Chayes Fellows’ projects may vary, but could include work in the areas of constitutional and legal issues in emerging democracies, reconstruction of war-torn societies, or development of political, social and economic institutions, among others. Past placements have included such organizations as: the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense in Colombia, the Legal Assistance Center in Namibia, and the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. Chayes Fellows have also been involved in such work as juvenile justice system reform in China, property rights legislation in Kosovo, natural resources law in Mongolia, maternal mortality and reproductive rights in Indonesia, and an assessment project related to United Nations peacekeeping missions. Specific projects for recent Chayes Fellows have included:

  • writing a memo as part of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal on the legality of prolonged pre-trial detention for two alleged Khmer Rouge leaders
  • developing curriculum for a course on strategies for advancing women’s rights in Latin America
  • drafting motions to keep restraining orders over the assets of individuals currently being prosecuted for fraud in South Africa
  • crafting a substantial study on User Created Content as part of a technology initiative for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • conducting site visits and interviews to document the treatment of detainees in Afghani detention facilities
  • writing a memo on implementing legislation after the completion of the constitutional process in Nepal
  • drafting a shareholder’s agreement to govern the African Development Bank’s equity participation in the capital of a major African regional bank
  • researching the laws and conventions governing repatriation of victims of cross-border sex trafficking and the conventions that govern embassies and consulates
  • producing a report on various countries’ land reform efforts in relation to human rights implementation in Colombia

For more information, review the summaries of past projects and a list of past fellows and placements.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Placement Organization

While summer placements must fit within the Chayes program mandate, there is a wide range of differences among organizations and the type of summer work experiences they offer. In selecting a placement organization, students should carefully consider a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

Goals and objectives. Students should evaluate both their academic and career interests, and think about how their summer work might fit in relation to their objectives. Some issues students might consider include desire to gain expertise / experience in a particular country or region, whether they will have the opportunity to create a work product, what type of networking opportunities the internship might provide, whether they are interested in improving foreign language proficiency, what type of professional experience they might gain (i.e., will the work be relevant to, or help further, their career interests, and in what way will it do so), etc.

Students should also consider the type of work in which they are interested and how it relates to their academic and career goals. Some organizations might require a significant amount of field work, while others might involve research and writing in an office. Certain projects may involve working directly with clients, while others may be entirely computer- or text-based research. The size of an organization may affect the type of work available (e.g., large multinational organizations might provide opportunities to work on large-scale policy issues, while small NGOs might provide more hands-on, grassroots projects with direct client interactions).

Students should actively communicate with the organization to make sure they have a clear understanding of the type of roles and responsibilities they will be assigned. While organizations often provide general information about their mission and activities, students should find out as much as possible about an organization’s day-to-day operations to have a better idea of what they can expect and whether the organization is an appropriate fit.

Working environment. Given the vast range of differences relating to institutional culture and structure among organizations, students should think about which type of working environment would be the most appropriate fit with their interests and preferences. Factors to consider might include the number of people in the office and their positions (e.g., how many attorneys? other interns?); the level of formality expected (e.g., what attire is appropriate?); whether work is done collaboratively or individually (and to what extent); whether the office is located in an urban or rural setting; the condition of the country’s infrastructure and how that might affect daily work (e.g., power outages, transportation, health and safety, etc.). Students should also find out what to expect regarding the type of supervision / mentoring they will receive (e.g., how easily accessible is the supervisor, will s/he be in the office regularly, etc.). In addition to an organization’s institutional culture, students should seek out information about a country’s social and cultural norms, including gender roles, so that students know what might be expected and can prepare accordingly.

Skills required. Students are sometimes surprised at the high level and amount of responsibilities that organizations assign them. While many students welcome such challenges, it is important to find out what organizations expect so that students, when possible, can prepare in advance so that the summer is challenging but not overwhelming. Students considering work at an organization that requires foreign language proficiency should clarify with the organization what level of proficiency is required and how much of the work will be in the foreign language. Previous students have found it helpful to ask for very specific information regarding exactly what type of work they will be capable of doing considering their level of proficiency, and how their level of proficiency might affect other aspects of their work, such as interactions with co-workers, etc. While working for an organization that requires foreign language proficiency can be an effective way to improve language skills, students should be realistic in their assessment of their language ability.

To gain a better sense of the differences among organizations, students should actively seek out information, including contacting the organization (students should make sure to consider the quality and specificity of the information they receive prior to the summer), reviewing HLS student evaluations (available in the OPIA online job search database and on the Chayes website); Chayes program-specific evaluations are available upon request from the Chayes Program – see contact information below), speaking with students who have worked for the organization (see list of past Chayes Fellows and placements), speaking with students who are from the relevant country (e.g., HLS Graduate Program students; a copy of the Graduate Program participant directory is available in the ILS and Graduate Program office and the OPIA office), consultations with OPIA or Chayes Program staff, etc.

Distinctions between Chayes Fellowship and Human Rights Program

In addition, students should be aware that while there is some similarity to Harvard’s Human Rights Program (HRP) Summer Fellowship there is an important distinction between the two programs. In contrast to HRP, the Chayes Fellowship tends to support students seeking human rights-focused placements primarily in post-conflict societies. In general, the Chayes Fellowship is awarded to students who will be working in societies in development or transition, or on related issues.

The Chayes Fellowship and the Human Rights Fellowship share a common application form, but the programs follow separate application processes. Students who are interested in placement organizations that could be sponsored by either the Chayes Program or HRP should apply to both programs directly. Any questions about which organizations are better suited for which fellowship program should be referred to staff at HRP or Chayes.

Whenever possible, the Chayes Program and HRP staff will make efforts to coordinate and ensure that students apply to and receive fellowships through the appropriate program. In cases in which a student’s placement would be appropriate for both programs, Chayes and HRP staff will take into consideration overall program balance and distribution of students and placements. If a student applies to, and is selected by, both programs, s/he will be notified, no later than March 31, as to which program will be administering his/her fellowship. Application and notification deadlines are the same for both programs, as are stipend amounts.

Getting Placement Organizations Approved

The Chayes program maintains a list of pre-approved placement organizations. Students who are interested in working with organizations that are not on the roster of authorized placements may seek to have a placement organization approved. To do so, the student must first provide the proposed organization with the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship Information for Placement Organizations to ensure that the organization understands and is prepared to meet its responsibilities.

Second, the student should ask his/her contact at the placement organization to fully complete the Chayes International Public Service Placement Form. While we recognize that projects evolve over time and it can be difficult to specify early on exactly what a Fellow will work on during the summer, it is important that this form contain as much detail as possible. In particular, the Fellow must have one or more designated projects; a description along the lines of “assisting with the general work of the organization,” or a lengthy description of a large organizational project noting that the HLS student will be responsible for “assisting the coordinators” is not adequate. Students should encourage the organization to focus on the student’s role within a particular project(s) and to provide details about the type of work in which they anticipate the student will be engaged.

Please be advised that the submission of a completed placement form is not, in itself, sufficient to gain approval for a placement. Nor is it a given that an organization that has been approved in past years will be approved every summer. Once the placement form is submitted, it is reviewed by the Chayes Fellowship program to ensure that (a) the organization falls within the program’s parameters and (b) the proposed project is substantive and appropriate for a law school student. In some cases the Chayes committee will have questions or require further information and may contact the student and/or placement organization. As noted previously, organizations are more likely to receive pre-approval as potential Chayes placements when they have articulated details of the role and responsibilities they anticipate a Fellow will be assigned as part of projects that fall within the Chayes mandate. The process of getting approval for Chayes placement organizations is not excessively complicated but is quite valuable in ensuring that Chayes Fellows have the best possible summer experience.

Once a student has received approval for a placement organization s/he must also obtain a letter confirming the offer for the summer.


  • November - January

    ILS staff available for advising meetings.

  • November

    Preliminary list of pre-approved placement organizations is made available to Harvard Law School students. Students may begin to make contact with these and other potential placement organizations in order to explore whether there is a fit between the student’s interests and skills and the organization’s needs.

  • December 1

    First-year students may begin to apply for jobs with placement organizations. Chayes Fellowship Program staff and OPIA student advisors will be available for consultations.

  • January (exact date TBD)

    Deadline to apply for HLS Summer Public Interest Funding (which is a prerequisite to participation in the Chayes Fellowship program). See the Student Financial Services Office website for details.

  • February 1

    Applications for the Chayes Fellowship are due.


  • February 1, 2, 3

    Applicants must contact the Chayes Fellowship Program at (617) 384-5284 or to schedule an interview. Please indicate your availability for a half-hour interview during business hours on February 7, 8, and 9.

  • February 7, 8, 9

    Interviews with applicants will be conducted by the Chayes Fellowship Program.

  • March 1

    Notification of Fellowship selections is sent to applicants. Final award of the Fellowship will be contingent upon the student securing an offer from an approved placement organization, and – in some cases – providing the Chayes Program with additional details about the work they will be undertaking. 

  • March 1 - 31

    Individual advising meetings with ILS staff for all accepted Chayes Fellows. These meetings will provide an opportunity to discuss specifics of placements and summer preparation.

  • March 31

    Deadline for accepted Chayes Fellows to secure approved placement and make firm commitment to program.

  • April - May

    Final arrangements are made regarding stipends. During this period students will arrange their own travel and housing for the summer. Mandatory briefing and training sessions will also take place during this period.

Application Procedures

Applications should be submitted to the Chayes Fellowship Program no later than February 1 at 5:00 p.m. Applications to the Chayes program must include the Chayes Fellowship / Human Rights Program Common Application Form and a copy of the student’s resume or curriculum vitae. Students who are foreign nationals should be aware of considerations with regard to special requirements both for receiving funding and visas when traveling abroad during their studies and plan accordingly. For this reason international students should be sure to contact the Harvard International Office before committing to any travel outside the United States.

The Chayes Fellowship application process will also include an interview which will take place February 7, 8, or 9, 2017. To schedule an interview, applicants should contact the Chayes Fellowship Program at (617) 384-5284 or between February 1 – 3, 2017.

Strong candidates are students who are seeking to complement their academic course work at Harvard Law School with practical, hands-on experience with organizations that work to effect change and address legal, political and social needs. Students should be able to articulate the way in which their proposed summer placements will help them to achieve their particular educational, professional and personal objectives.

Applications and correspondence should be sent to:

The Chayes Fellowship Committee
c/o Sara Zucker, International Legal Studies
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5005
Harvard Law School
Cambridge, MA 02138 (email)


Fellowship Awards

Chayes Fellows will be eligible for stipends from the Law School’s Summer Public Interest Funding Program run by the Student Financial Services Office and supplemented by funds from the Chayes Program determined by placement location. These sums are intended to defray travel and living expenses for the summer. For more information, see the summer funding section of the Student Financial Services Office website or OPIA’s Handbook of Public Service Resources for HLS Students. The Chayes Fellowship will also cover inoculations (up to $500) for students whose health plans do not provide coverage and who are traveling to developing countries that advise travelers to take precautions. If a student is placed in a U.S.-based organization, he/she will not receive a stipend above the standard amount for Summer Public Interest Funding.

Chayes Fellowship recipients will become part of a network of individuals engaged with organizations working in societies in transition around the world. As such, Chayes Fellows will be invited to attend periodic meetings at Harvard with prominent international guest speakers and social events.

Fellowship Obligations

Students may fulfill the HLS pro bono work requirements through summer placements, but will not receive class credit.

Chayes Fellows will be required to attend informational sessions in the spring in order to prepare for their placements and participation in the Fellowship program.

Fellows are expected to make their own travel, visa, and housing arrangements for the summer fellowship once the Selection Committee’s decisions are announced and fellows have secured approved placements. Fellowships must be a minimum duration of 8 weeks (full-time) unless express authorization is received from the Chayes program for a Fellow to work for a shorter period.

Upon arrival at their placement organizations, fellows must contact the Chayes Fellowship Program and should send an update communication at least once during the summer. If fellows encounter any change of plans or difficulties — in terms of the nature or duration of their work, supervision, or personal safety — they must contact the Chayes Program.

After completing the fellowship, recipients will be expected to attend a mandatory debriefing with the Chayes Fellowship Selection Committee, to share their summer experiences with the other fellows and the committee members, and to submit a written evaluation of their experience. The written evaluation will be made available to interested students and others through the Office of Public Interest Advising and the Student Evaluations of Chayes Placement Organizations secure webpage. Fellows will also be expected to satisfy certain collegial and educational obligations throughout the year by advising successors and attending fellowship meetings with international guest speakers.

If a student does not meet the obligations of the fellowship, s/he may be asked to refund some or all of the stipend.

Splitting Summer

Fellows are not permitted to split the summer between two organizations unless the work is part of a comprehensive and coordinated project. However, fellows are welcome to spend 8 weeks at one organization and work additional time elsewhere. This requirement is in place for two reasons. First, 8 weeks is needed for a student to maximize his/her involvement in an organization and engagement in substantive work. Second, 8 weeks is the minimum time period required for HLS students to receive stipends through the Summer Public Interest Funding program.

Contact Information and Office Hours

The International Legal Studies Office (ILS) manages the Chayes Fellowship. Staff members at the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising and ILS are available to discuss potential placement organizations and make recommendations to interested students. Also, former Chayes Fellows can serve as a resource.For further information, student applicants may contact:

Sara Zucker
Director of International Legal Studies Programs
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5005
Harvard Law School
tel: (617) 495-9030
fax: (617) 496-9179
or just come by Wasserstein 5005 during Sara’s office hours when classes are in session:
Tuesdays 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Thursdays 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.