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Chayes Fellows spend eight weeks during the summer working with  governmental or non-governmental organizations concerned with issues of an international scope or relevant to countries in transition. 

In seeking a placement and developing a summer project, students should draw on the wealth of experiences of HLS students, staff and alumni:

  • The International Legal Studies staff is available to discuss potential placement organizations and make recommendations to interested students.
  • Chayes Fellowship alumni can also serve as a resource. Please see Chayes Fellowships:  Projects and Placements to view summaries of recent projects.
  • Students can review Chayes Fellows’ evaluations of their summer placements and of the Chayes program; additional evaluations are posted in OPIA’s online job search database in HELIOS.
  • Applicants may also find it helpful to speak with HLS students who have lived and/or worked in relevant countries or regions. For example, a directory of current LL.M. and S.J.D. students, who represent more than 65 countries and jurisdictions, is available in the Graduate Program office (WCC 5005).

We encourage students to begin considering summer options during the preceding fall. Between December and March, students should be in contact with prospective placement organizations to discuss the nature of the summer work and try to secure a firm offer of a position.

Since Chayes Fellowships are international in nature, there is a strong presumption that placements will take place within organizations located outside of the United States. In rare cases, a Fellow may be approved for a U.S.-based placement within an organization that has an international scope, such as the United Nations or the World Bank. Students proposing a placement with an organization based in the U.S. must present a compelling case as to how, given the particular nature of the work and the student’s background and interests, the experience would be consonant with the mandate of the Chayes Fellowship to enable international experiences. Students should also be aware that the Chayes Fellowship Committee sets a higher standard of review for evaluating U.S.-based placement organizations, and that — as with all proposed placements — there is no guarantee that the placement will be approved.

Although it is not necessary to have a confirmed placement before applying for the Chayes Fellowship, a strong Fellowship application will demonstrate a thoughtful, considered and proactive  approach to planning a summer project with an organization based abroad. Applicants should have been in contact with possible placement organizations by the time the Chayes Fellowship program holds interviews with applicants in February.

Information and Advising Sessions

Come talk with recent Chayes Fellows and ILS staff about potential placements, the application process, and any other questions.
Tuesday, January 16 and Thursday, January 25 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. | Graduate Program Lounge, WCC Room 5053

To present their qualifications to placement organizations, students should send a resume and cover letter directly to the organization, unless the organization requests otherwise.  Students are encouraged to apply to a number of organizations, and it can take time to secure an appropriate international placement.

Seeking a Placement Organization

Students may explore two options in order to secure an approved placement.

Pre-Approved Placement Organizations

Beginning in November, the Chayes Fellowship Program will provide a regularly updated list of pre-approved placement organizations. These organizations are interested in hosting a Chayes Fellow whose interests and skills match the needs of the organization, and they have been screened to ensure that their work fits within the general parameters of the Chayes program.

A student who secures a position at a pre-approved organization may still be required to obtain additional details about the specific work they will undertake and to receive written approval from the Chayes Fellowship program.

New Placement Organizations

Students who are interested in working with organizations that are not on the roster of pre-approved placement organizations are welcome to work with the new organization to register it as a Chayes Fellowship placement site.

The student must first provide the proposed organization with the Chayes Fellowship’s Information for Placement Organizations to ensure that the organization understands the parameters of the Chayes program and is prepared to meet its responsibilities.

Second, the student should ask their contact at the placement organization to fully complete the Chayes Fellowship Placement Form for 2024 (available on this page). 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 vague 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 and to provide details about the type of work they anticipate the student will engage in. Placement forms for new organizations should be submitted to International Legal Studies by March 15.

Please note 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 the organization falls within the program’s parameters and that 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 above, organizations are more likely to be approved as potential Chayes placements when they articulate details of projects that fall within the Chayes mandate and the role and responsibilities they anticipate assigning to a Fellow. The process of getting approval for Chayes placement organizations is not excessively complicated, but it is quite valuable in ensuring that Chayes Fellows have the best possible summer experience.

Students who are offered positions with pre-approved Chayes Fellowship organizations, but are not accepted as Chayes Fellows, are welcome to work for those organizations provided that the position is not conditioned upon participation in the Chayes Fellowship.

Things to Consider

While summer placements must fit within the Chayes Fellowship 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 their objectives. Among others, these considerations might include:

  • gaining expertise/experience in a particular country or region
  • the opportunity to create a work product
  • the chance to develop specific skills or experience
  • the ability to see how academic interests or theoretical ideas play out in the real world
  • the networking opportunities the internship might provide
  • the opportunity to improve foreign language proficiency
  • gaining professional experience (will the work be relevant to, or help further, their career interests, and in what way?)

Students should also consider the type of work which they would perform. Some organizations might require a significant amount of field work, while other placements  might involve working in an office. Certain projects may involve working directly with clients, while others may consist entirely of 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 what type of working environment would be the most appropriate fit with their interests and preferences. Some factors to consider 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
  • whether the office is located in an urban or rural setting
  • the condition of the country’s infrastructure and how it 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 they be in the office regularly?). 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 they 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 to them. While many students welcome these challenges, it is important to find out what organizations expect so that students can prepare in advance, when possible, for a summer that is challenging but not overwhelming.

Students considering work at an organization that requires foreign language proficiency should clarify the level of proficiency required and how much of the work must be conducted 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 clients or co-workers. 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.

Splitting the Summer

Chayes Fellows are not permitted to split the summer between two organizations unless the work is part of a comprehensive and coordinated project. This requirement is in place for two reasons:

  1. Eight weeks is needed for a student to maximize their involvement with an organization and their ability to engage in substantive work.
  2. Eight weeks is the minimum time period required for HLS students to receive stipends through the Summer Public Interest Funding program.

However, Chayes Fellows are welcome to spend eight weeks at one organization and additional time working elsewhere.

Other Summer Opportunities

While there is some similarity between the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship and Harvard’s Human Rights Program (HRP) Summer Fellowships, there are important distinctions between the two programs. The HRP Fellowship supports students who are working on issues specifically relating to human rights, while Chayes Fellows may address a broad spectrum of legal, political, social, and economic challenges, particularly for societies in development or transition. In addition to projects focusing on immigration, employment and labor, the death penalty, LGBT+ rights, children’s rights, and many other aspects of human rights, recent Chayes Fellows have, for example, worked on projects relating to economic development, constitutional reform, climate change and the environment, and treaty compliance, among others. The Chayes Fellowship program works closely with its Fellows, and with their placement organizations, before and during the Fellowship summer, to ensure that students are able to do meaningful and productive work, and encourages the development of a strong and ongoing community of Chayes Fellows.

Please note: students may apply to both the Chayes Fellowship and the Human Rights Program Summer Fellowship, but they may only receive funding from one of these programs in the same summer.  Please note that if an applicant invited to participate in both programs accepts a placement offer from a pre-approved Chayes placement organization, it is expected that the student will undertake that placement as a Chayes Fellow. (Stipend amounts will be the same for both programs.)