If I just want a public interest job after I graduate, why would I apply for a PSVF Org-Based Fellowship?
Securing an entry-level public interest job is challenging, because many non-profit organizations, NGOs, and even government agencies tend to hire law school graduates with at least one year of post-graduate work experience after 3L year or after a clerkship. Fellowships help launch long-term public interest careers either at a Fellow’s host organization or a comparable organization in the same or similar issue area or geographic region. Learn more about the PSVF mission and how to submit a successful fellowship application.
Does the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship have a pre-selected list of organizations that they want to fund, or do I have to find a host myself?
There is not a pre-selected list, although host organizations must be “PSVF eligible,” as defined in the PSVF host organization guidelines. We are happy to suggest potential host organizations that would fit your interests, or connect you with other faculty and staff who might help you identify organizations to reach out to and useful contacts. Several electronic resources can also help your search for host organizations, including psjd.org, the NALDA Job Board, Idealist, and Helios, among others listed in the Insider’s Guide to Successful Fellowship & Grant Applications.
Do I apply for the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship first to see if I get the money and then apply for a host organization with the fellowship award, or do I apply first for a host organization?
You need to identify your host organization first and ensure that they agree to host you. If they are deemed eligible to host a PSVF fellow, they will need to write a sponsorship letter on your behalf and submit a signed copy of the Memorandum of Understanding with HLS as part of your application. Learn more about PSVF Org-Based Fellowship eligibility guidelines and make an appointment to consult with an OPIA advisor. This process can begin as early as spring of 2L year, and certainly no later than January of your 3L or clerkship year.
Would I be equally competitive for a PSVF Org-Based Fellowship whether I act as a staff attorney at an organization or pitch a new project?
Yes, you will be just as competitive for the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship with an application to be a staff attorney at an eligible organization that is otherwise not conducting any entry-level hiring. The PSVF Org-Based Fellowship does not require you to design an innovative project. Please consult key differences between the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship and certain other fellowships that support post-graduate public interest work.
Could I apply for a PSVF Org-Based Fellowship with two different projects at two different organizations?
No, because the intention of the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship is to be at the host organization for a full 12 months. Please consult with an OPIA advisor by December 1 if you think you have an exceptional case.
If I win a PSVF Org-Based Fellowship, can I defer it?
No. A PSVF Org-Based Fellowship cannot be deferred.
If I am already applying to organizations that have their own internal fellowship funding, do I also have to apply to externally-funded or project-based fellowships, such as the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship, Skadden, EJW, etc.?
Organization-based fellowships have a limited number of slots (often just one per organization) and are highly competitive. PSVF Org-Based Fellowships cannot be used to fund a staff or project position at an organization that already has its own funding. The exception to this rule occurs if the organization does either of the following:
- only offers its fellowship once every 2 years and you are applying on an off cycle;
- turned you down for its fellowship because it chose another Harvard Law School graduate to fill that position.
I want to apply with an organization that has multiple offices and has an opening in one of them but not in the office I want to go to; is that an eligible organization?
The answer is a lawyerly “it depends,” and you should consult the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship host organization guidelines. Generally speaking, if the organization is one entity, it will be disqualified even if it has multiple offices/projects. However, for nonprofits that share a name but have distinct offices with separate 501(c)(3) status, budgets and boards, a distinct office that does not have entry-level hiring may be eligible.
If I applied in the fall for fellowships to go to one organization, do I have to apply to the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship with the same organization, or could I seek sponsorship from a different one?
You may apply with any eligible non-profit organization or government agency in this country or abroad. Your fall efforts with another organization will still be credited to your job search efforts discussed below in the Criteria section.
If I applied to different organizations for support from different fellowships, can I combine a PSVF Org-Based Fellowship with any one of them?
PSVF Org-Based Fellowship support can only be used at the eligible organization for which you submitted a PSVF application, and the salary contribution from PSVF in combination with your other fellowship cannot exceed $50,000. For example, if you receive $40,000 from the Berkeley Foundation, your PSVF contribution would be $10,000 (and not an additional $50,000), and only if the host organization for the Berkeley Foundation Fellowship is the same as your PSVF host organization.
Is there an “exhaustion” requirement? In order to meet the job search criteria, how many fellowships and jobs are considered the ideal number for an applicant?
There is no “exhaustion” requirement – you are not expected to apply for every job for which you would be eligible. However, you are expected to make a good faith effort to land a job in your field(s) of interest and not over-rely on one possible employer or the PSVF. Each applicant is evaluated as an individual who brings distinct interests and skills. While we want you to apply for work that you are excited about, you need to balance that with openness to related work. For example, simply applying for several competitive fellowships with one host organization will generally not be sufficient. If you are geographically restricted in your search, we will expect you to be more open-minded about the type of work you will pursue. Applying just for judicial clerkships does not count as a good faith effort to find a public interest job. As always, you are encouraged to make an appointment to consult an adviser in advance of submitting your application to ascertain whether your job search might be considered adequate for the Selection Committee.
For recommendations, is it better to submit a letter from a podium faculty member or my clinical instructor?
The key to choosing a good recommendation and reference is to select the people who are most familiar with your knowledge and skills in the relevant area in which you plan to practice as a public interest attorney. Often a clinical instructor has seen you interacting with clients or knows your work from supervising you directly in the field.
I heard that one of my potential recommenders is one of the PSVF interviewers. Would this person still be able to be a recommender or reference for me?
Yes. A person who has taught you would still be an appropriate choice either for writing your recommendation letter or receiving calls as your reference. If they write you a recommendation letter, you will be interviewed by other committee members who can support your application.
If I have never worked in the issue area nor with the organization where I propose to set up my project, what can I do to demonstrate my readiness for a PSVF Org-Based Fellowship?
You have several ways to signal your readiness for undertaking your project or a staff position in your field:
- enroll in a clinical (in-house or independent) during J-term or your spring semester;
- use seminars as opportunities to delve more deeply into the issue areas, by analyzing data or writing papers.
On the whole, PSVF is looking for fellows who have shown a record of dedication to public interest work. This can manifest in several ways: if you have done a lot of human rights work abroad but plan to work on behalf of clients in the U.S., you are responsible for explaining how your prior work with clients and special language skills or cultural sensitivity inform your passion for serving in this new setting.
I am considering a career in international human rights; could I use a PSVF Org-Based Fellowship to be abroad for a year if I know I want to be based in the U.S. for my long-term career?
A PSVF Org-Based Fellowship can be used for work with any PSVF-eligible organization. Many U.S.-based human rights groups value international field work, reporting, and interviewing skills. If you are considering an international proposal, please make an appointment with Judy Murciano about early internal Fulbright deadlines, Committee on General Scholarships, and the Human Rights Fellowships.
I am not a U.S. citizen; am I still eligible for the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship?
Yes. Every year, both J.D. and LL.M. international students win PSVF Org-Based Fellowships to work at the job of their dreams. LL.M.s, in particular, are urged to review the eligibility criteria.
When should I start looking for a host organization?
Ideally, you want to secure a host organization well in advance, typically in the early summer or fall of your rising 3L or clerkship year, so that you can apply with the same organization for other funding sources, such as Skadden, EJW, and Justice Catalyst fellowships. In addition, you may be interested in the Early Decision Fellowship for Underserved Jurisdictions if your potential host organization is in a jurisdiction whose final bar application deadline is before the typical PSVF Org-Based Fellowship award date of May 1. Please make an appointment to consult with OPIA staff. However, every year, successful applicants are able to find good host organizations much closer to the application deadline.
What happens if I win a PSVF to go an organization that finds out in July that they will have a budget to do entry-level hiring; can I still keep the PSVF funding?
The host organization is required to sign an MOU at the time you submit your application in February that if they subsequently discover that they have their own funding for a fellowship or entry-level hiring, the organization will fund or hire you and the PSVF money will be returned.
What are some of the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship key elements that are distinct from other sponsored fellowships?
The PSVF Org-Based Fellowship allows you to go to any non-profit organization or government agency in this country or abroad that has no other way to support entry-level hiring through a fellowship or budget of their own.
- Most funders do not scrutinize whether the host organization has entry level hiring or its own fellowships.
- Most other foundations do not allow you to apply to a government organization or provide you with the freedom to choose an international organization.
- Many fellowships require a special project proposal; while you are permitted to have a special project to apply for the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship, you are not required to do so and may instead just act as a staff attorney at your host organization.
- Some fellowships, such as Skadden and EJW provide access to health insurance. The PSVF Org-Based Fellowship expects applicants to carry insurance but does not offer health insurance nor require host organizations to provide it; however, the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship appreciates host organizations that provide health insurance and any additional non-required benefits to our applicants.
Does the PSVF Org-Based Fellowship ever adjust the stipend amount based on the city or community where you practice?
No. All PSVF Org-Based Fellowship recipients receive the same stipend. Applicants may want to consider the cost of living and other expenses when choosing a host organization. Fellowships in most cases are taxable (international students working abroad are sometimes tax-exempt, but all students are expected to consult a tax expert to fulfill their obligations). PSVF Org-Based Fellows are eligible for LIPP.
Do you have a database for current and former PSVF Org-Based and other fellowship winners whom I could contact?