Finding a Host Organization for Public Interest Fellowships

So you’re interested in applying for a Public Interest Fellowship and can’t wait to get started creating your dream job for your dream organization. But how do you find a good host organization?

Let’s get into it!

What type of organization can be a host organization for a public interest fellowship?

Just about any non-profit that does legal work is an appropriate host organization! If you’re applying for the Bank of America Foundation Fellowship, state and local government agencies can be host organizations too. (Although be aware that it is much harder to get government organizations on board since they are not usually fluent with fellowships language as non-profits are.) If you want to work with a government organization as your host organization, reach out to me.

There are great organizations in every state in the country and you can even find a host organization that does transactional work.

Here is advice on how to find a host organization directly from Equal Justice Works:

  • Utilize Your Networks: Don’t be afraid to contact organizations where you’ve interned in the past! Even if your proposed project doesn’t necessarily align with the work you did previously, your former colleagues are likely to be well-connected within the public interest community.
  • Know Where to Look: Prospective host organizations are encouraged to post solicitation notices for Fellowship opportunities far and wide. Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all popular places to share, as well as the organization’s own website, and job boards like PSJDNLADA’s Job Board, and Idealist. We’ll also be retweeting calls for Fellows at @EJW_org, so take a look.
  • Break the Ice: Know of the perfect organization but don’t have a connection yet? It never hurts to get in touch! More than 145 organizations are currently hosting Equal Justice Works Fellows, and reaching out to current Fellows or alumni in your area is a great place to start. Come prepared with a vision—or even a brief project outline—and be sure to demonstrate a willingness to work closely with the organization.

You are really only limited by your imagination but to provide you with some concrete ideas to get started, here is a list of all of the organizations where prior Notre Dame fellows have worked:

Kentucky Legal Aid, Owensboro, KY

Inner City Law Center, Los Angeles, CA

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Chicago, IL

National Housing Law Project, San Francisco, CA

Disability Rights New York, Albany, NY

Chicago Public Schools, Law Department, Chicago, IL

Community Activism Law Alliance, Chicago, IL

Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice, Detroit, MI

Chicago-Low Income Housing Trust Fund, Chicago, IL

International Institute of the Bay Area, Oakland, CA

Equip for Equality, Chicago, IL

Hawai’i Innocence Project, Honolulu, HI

Crag Law Center, Portland, OR

Midwest Environmental Advocates, Madison, WI

Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, Denver, CO

Animal Legal Defense Fund, Portland, OR

Catholic Charities Legal Network of the Archdiocese of Washington, Washington, D.C.

Public Counsel, Los Angeles, CA

 National Immigrant Justice Center, Chicago, IL

Legal Aid Chicago, Chicago, IL

Education Law Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Colorado Legal Services, Denver, CO

New Mexico Legal Aid, Land and Water Project, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Project Dawn Court, Philadelphia, PA

Tahirih Justice CenterHouston, TX 

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

To search for organizations, there are four main resources you’ll want to use.

(1) PSJD: PSJD is the most comprehensive resource available for public interest organizations. If it exists, you’ll find it there. All NDLS students can access PSJD for free. You do need to sign up for an account in order to click  on organizations you find in your searches but that account is free.

Click search and then advanced search:

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When searching, click the “employer profiles” button, not the “job postings” button:

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You can search by city, practice area, or both. If you want to start broad, you can search by city to get a sense for what organizations exist there. I’ll do a search for Cleveland to show you how it works:

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The search button is at the bottom of the page so you need to scroll for a while:

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Here are the results for every single organization that does any public interest work located in the city of Cleveland. There are 36 total results over two pages starting with the ACLU of Ohio. 

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As you can see below, the results are very broad. Government organizations such as the City of Cleveland-Department of Law are included as are law schools that have clinics working to advance the public interest. Basically, any organization which can conceivably be considered as doing public interest work is listed.

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Or you can just search by practice area and leave geography blank. This search will result in a list of all organizations practicing a specific area of law in the entire country. Here is a sample search for organizations that practice childrens’ rights law:

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As you can see below, there are 1,419 organizations over 20 pages of results that do some kind of childrens’ rights work in the United States. These results include traditional non-profits that focus exclusively on childrens’ rights work (A Better Childhood in New York) and the ABA’s Center on Children and the Law and they also include organizations that tangentially touch on childrens’ rights work from time to time such as the 11th Judicial Circuit in Florida and a University.

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Lastly, you can earch by geography and practice area at the same time so here is my search for childrens’ rights organizations in Cleveland as an example of a sample search. There are six results total. As you can see, the results are very broad and capture every single organization that conceivably does anything that could be remotely considered childrens’ rights work in Cleveland.

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PSJD is truly comprehensive and if you are looking to just compile a list of organizations, there is truly no better place to turn. If you’re looking to find organizations that are very sophisticated at creating fellowship project proposals, you need to dig a little deeper.

When it comes to creating a strong fellowship proposal, all organizations are not created equal.

Some organizations are consistently awarded prestigious outside fellowships such as EJW and Skadden every single year while some small non-profits have never sponsored an applicant for a fellowship and thus do not have significant knowledge regarding how to put together a fellowship application or perhaps lack knowledge about what a fellowship even is. It doesn’t mean you won’t win a fellowship if you apply with one of those smaller organizations but it does make the path harder. So if all things are equal, you should try and apply with an organization that has a rich history of winning fellowships.

How can you identify what those organizations are?

The easy answer is to look where former EJWs and Skaddens have completed their projects. Fortunately, neither EJW nor Skadden hides where their former fellows have worked. They make this information very easy to find!

(2) The Equal Justice Works fellows archive will show you every former and current fellow EJW has ever had.

If an organization has hosted an EJW fellow before, there is a good chance that they know how to put together a strong fellowship proposal and how to support their fellows.

The EJW fellow archive is very easy to use and the search looks like this:

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As with PSJD, you can search EJW by practice area (issue) and by geography (service location). You can also search by other factors including by law school so if you plug Notre Dame in, you’ll find all NDLS alumni who completed an EJW fellowship.

Below are the search results for a sample search I ran for all former fellows in Arizona. As you can see, the results show the former fellows’ faces and you can click on a face to see the organization where they completed their project. For example, Jami Cornish, the third fellow below, completed her project at Community Legal Services in Mesa, Arizona and her fellowship was sponsored by Greenberg Traurig law firm.

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If you want to learn about a particular fellow’s project, you just click on their face. I clicked on Jami’s face and here is what came up:

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As you can see, her project focused on domestic violence and family law, she completed her project in 2006, and she attended Golden Gate State University School of Law. 

3. You can use the same search for former and current Skadden fellows over at the Skadden Fellowship Directory.

The Skadden Fellowship Directory is also very easy to use. It looks like this:

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As you can see, you can search for former Skadden fellows by their class year, their fellowship issue, or you can plug in a key word such as the state or city where they completed their project or the practice area. 

Here is a sample search for all projects completed in the state of Alaska:

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The search yielded three results. Note that the results pick up anything with “Alaska” listed anywhere so it doesn’t mean all of the people in the results completed their fellowships in Alaska. In fact, only 2/3 fellows listed in this search actually completed their projects in Alaska. One is listed because she currently works in Alaska but she completed her Skadden project in Miami. I have displayed the third and most recent result below so you can know how Skadden presents their fellows:

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As you can see, this fellow, Erin Dougherty, a University of Michigan Law School graduate, completed her project in 2009 at the Native American Rights Fund. The result also describes what her project was about.

4. The last resource I want to higlight is Notre Dame’s Public Interest Fellowship Database.

This resource is an Excel spreadsheet I put together specifically for Notre Dame students.

When you open it, here is what it looks like:

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As you can see, there are three tabs: Paid Fellowships, Unpaid Fellowships & Host Orgs, and Summer Fellowships. The Unpaid Fellowships tabs is full of potential host organizations. As of this writing, there are 198 listed. PSJD is a much more comprehensive resource for host organizations than this tab but this tab includes organizations who have specifically reached out to Notre Dame with a fellowship announcement so it can be a helpful resource for that reason. (The Paid Fellowships tab lists outside fellowships that have their own funding and the Summer Fellowships tab lists paid public interest opportunities for summer interns).

If you’re looking for a host organization to apply for public interest fellowships, these four resources are the perfect place to start. If you have questions about your search for an organization, please reach out to me at katelynn.mcbride@nd.edu.

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