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Maria Ann Skirnick, JD ’69, and Robert A. Skirnick, JD ’66, University of Chicago Law School, through a generous gift to Harvard Law School, established the Skirnick Fellowships to promote public service. The Skirnicks are now joined by their daughter, Gabriella Skirnick, JD/MBA ’07. The purpose of the Fellowship is two-fold: to achieve an immediate impact on the lives of the people served by the programs where the Fellows will be working and, with an eye to the future of the legal profession, to develop public interest law leaders and practitioners of tomorrow, whether they continue to work in the nonprofit arena or become pro bono advocates in the private bar.

Description and Eligibility

The Skirnick Fellowships will be awarded to graduating third-year Harvard Law School students who demonstrate potential to become outstanding public interest lawyers and who will be working in qualifying practice settings according to the terms of the fellowship. Qualifying practice settings are domestic nonprofit public service organizations and government agencies. Among equally qualified applicants, those who will be or are providing civil legal services for the poor, including the working poor, will receive preference for funding. Jobs not eligible for support include positions involving criminal prosecution or defense, international positions, judicial clerkships, and positions in academic institutions (with the exception of clinical teaching fellowships where the fellow will actually be practicing public interest law).

One to two fellowships will be awarded of $45,000. This will provide a one-year salary for a 3L to work at the organization of his or her choice. Applicants must secure an agreement from a nonprofit organization (which may include an HLS clinical program) or government office willing and committed to hosting the graduate’s work. The organization will be required to pay health care costs unless the applicant can demonstrate another method for obtaining health insurance.

Be aware that it is difficult to be hosted by a federal agency. Be sure to discuss this with your OPIA advisor before approaching a federal government agency for sponsorship. We recommend that you discuss your proposed sponsoring organization with an OPIA advisor before you line up your sponsor. Your sponsoring organization must be one that could not have done entry-level hiring this year absent HLS funding. As these fellowships are designed to be career launchers, we advise you to pick a sponsoring organization that might hire you at the end of your fellowship or that will help you develop skills and expertise to enable you to land another public service position at the end of your fellowship.

Application for the 2014-2015 Skirnick Fellowships

To apply for the Skirnick Fellowship, you must apply for an organization-based fellowship through the Public Service Venture Fund (PSVF). Like the Kaufman Fellowships, PSVF organization-based fellowships provide funding for candidates to work at sponsoring organizations. Applicants to the PSVF will be considered for all OPIA-administered fellowships for which they are eligible.


Questions should be directed to Alexa Shabecoff at or 617-495-3108.