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Application deadline extended to April 15!

Jump to Guidelines for 2016-2017 Fellows

History and Purpose

The Wasserstein Public Interest Fellows Program was created in 1990 in honor of Morris Wasserstein through a generous gift from his family. The Program, which brings outstanding public interest attorneys to Harvard Law School to counsel students about public service, recognizes exemplary lawyers who have distinguished themselves in public interest work and who can assist students who are considering similar career paths. “Public interest” is defined broadly to include law-related work for governmental agencies, legal services providers, prosecutors, public defenders, private public interest law firms, nonprofit organizations and international organizations that provide legal assistance, conduct research, or engage in other activities aimed at advancing the common good. Please see our list of former Wasserstein Fellows to learn more about the program’s history.

Wasserstein Fellows

Each Wasserstein Fellow spends 2-3 days on campus meeting individually with Harvard Law students to advise them about public interest career options. The students sign up in advance at OPIA for 30-minute counseling sessions. On average, Fellows can expect to meet with 5-7 students per day. During these sessions, Fellows focus on each student’s individual career aspirations and concerns.

Common issues of interest to students may include:

  • how the Fellow discovered his or her interests/passions;
  • what the Fellow’s day-to-day work is like;
  • what experiences are helpful in breaking into the Fellow’s field;
  • what the Fellow likes best/least about his/her work;
  • how the Fellow transitioned between different types of work/issue areas;
  • what opportunities might exist for summer or post-graduate work in the Fellow’s field; and
  • what types of positions attorneys leaving the Fellow’s organization typically transition to.

Prior to the campus visit, each Fellow must provide OPIA with the following:

  1. A brief autobiographical sketch.
  2. A 1-2 page description of a “typical” workday.
  3. A description of the Fellow’s organization.
  4. A 3-5 page written overview of careers in their field for use by OPIA staff and students.
  5. A list of key organizations in their field, as well as lesser-known organizations conducting similar or related work and networking contacts at those organizations.
  6. A list of resources OPIA staff should be aware of when advising students interested in their field.

Fellows may also participate in a speaking engagement during their campus visit, such as a class visit or lunch meeting with interested student groups.

Each Fellow receives an honorarium of $1000 in addition to funding for travel, hotel, and other expenses.

OPIA/HRP Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence

The Harvard Human Rights Program (HRP) and OPIA will also jointly host one OPIA/HRP Wasserstein-Fellow-in-Residence. The OPIA/HRP Wasserstein-Fellow-in-Residence will spend four months on the HLS campus (September-December) and will split his or her time between OPIA and HRP. While in OPIA, the OPIA/HRP Wasserstein-Fellow-in-Residence will advise students one-on-one on human rights careers, as well as conduct the other Wasserstein activities outlined above. While in HRP, the OPIA/HRP Wasserstein-Fellow-in-Residence will:

  • Conduct a serious independent research inquiry in the human rights field.
  • Participate in bi-monthly lunch colloquia hosted by HRP.
  • Present to HRP staff, faculty, and other HRP Fellows at a lunch colloquia.
  • Participate in other HRP programs related to the Fellowship/the Fellow’s area of research.

In order to carry out these responsibilities, the OPIA/HRP Wasserstein-Fellow-in-Residence will receive (1) office space in OPIA and shared office space in HRP, including access to computers and printer; (2) use of the Harvard library system; and (3) a $24,000 stipend to cover travel, housing and related expenses. Secretarial support will not be provided. Fellows will be responsible for securing their own housing as well as an appropriate visa if necessary.


Fellows are chosen by a Fellowship Committee appointed by Dean Martha Minow, and their activities are coordinated by OPIA.

Deadline extended to April 15, 2016! Applications are now being accepted for 2016-2017 Fellows! 

Guidelines for 2016-2017 Fellows

Fellowship Criteria

The Fellowship Committee seeks applicants who have shown an outstanding dedication to public interest law and have made significant contributions to their fields. The Committee endeavors to select a group of Fellows who reflect the diversity and breadth of public interest experiences, areas of expertise, and geographic locations. In addition, the Committee looks for Fellows who work in practice settings of interest to our students. Most importantly, the Committee seeks Fellows who will enjoy meeting individually with a diverse group of students and who possess personal qualities that will enable them to be effective career counselors.

Most Wasserstein Public Interest Fellows have had at least seven years of post-law-school public interest experience at a nonprofit, public defender or prosecutor’s office, government agency, intergovernmental organization or private public interest firm. Young Wasserstein Public Interest Fellows are attorneys who have been out of law school for three to six years. Young Wasserstein Fellows are selected through the same process and participate in the same activities on campus.

Application Procedures

We actively welcome applicants from all practice areas, and are particularly interested in applicants with experience in racial justice work, women’s rights, education law, international law, and legal services.

You may apply to be a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow or Young Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow, or you may nominate someone else for the Fellowship. Deadline extended! Application and nomination materials must be submitted by Friday, April 15, 2016. 

To apply, please complete the online Wasserstein Fellow Application Form. Applications must include:

  • A brief personal statement (1-3 pages) discussing your interest in becoming a Fellow.
  • A resume.
  • Two or three letters of recommendation.
  • Contact information for law students or younger lawyers whom you have mentored.

For the OPIA/HRP Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence, please also include:

  • A detailed description of your proposed area of research and writing while a Fellow, defining the aims of the study and its methods, as clearly as possible.
  • A sample of any writing on human rights (in English, Spanish, or French), if there is any such writing.
  • A description of your proposed work and career after the Fellowship.
  • A statement indicating that you are fluent in oral English.

For nominations, please complete the online Wasserstein Fellow Nomination Form. Nominations must include:

  • A statement addressing the nominee’s professional accomplishments and experience mentoring or counseling younger lawyers or law students.
  • The nominee’s resume.

Please be aware that OPIA will ask nominees to provide additional information for the Fellowship Committee, including a brief personal statement, letters of recommendation, and contact information for law students or young lawyers whom they have mentored. Therefore, we ask that you inform the nominee that you have nominated her/him for the Wasserstein Public Interest Fellows Program.

NOTE: If you wish to reactivate a prior Wasserstein Fellowship application, please submit your materials using the online Wasserstein Fellow Application Form and indicate in your personal statement that you are reapplying and the year(s) of your prior application(s) as well as any updates you would like to include in your reactivation request.

Applicants can expect to be notified of the final status of their application by the end of June.

Questions about the application or nomination process should be directed to the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising at