Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there anything or anyone Equal Justice Works will not fund?
A: Project: Generally speaking, Equal Justice Works seeks a diverse group of projects addressing issues in a broad variety of substantive areas and locations. There are, however, a few caveats:
- Equal Justice Works will only fund projects that target a population located in the United States and its territories.
- Equal Justice Works will not fund a general staff attorney position within an existing organization. The Fellowships program is intended to create new public interest positions for lawyers committed to developing and leading innovative social justice projects.
- Equal Justice Works will not fund projects proposing routine criminal defense work. Projects centered on indigent criminal defense should focus on innovative services, support or delivery mechanisms that are not adequately funded by the government or that are designed to impact broad criminal justice issues. For example, Equal Justice Works has funded projects involving death penalty work, preventive strategies, and systemic issues such as sentencing, alternatives to incarceration and concerns of special populations, such as juveniles and the mentally ill.
Candidate: Any law student or lawyer can apply regardless of what month or year s/he graduated law school, so long as s/he has graduated by the fall of the beginning of their fellowship term from an Equal Justice Works 2015-16 member law school. There are, however, two exceptions:
- An individual who has worked as a full-time, permanent employee with the host organization with whom they are applying for any length of time within one year of the application date may not serve as a fellow at that organization. Individuals who worked as interns are still encouraged to apply.
- Equal Justice Works will not fund an applicant who has had another postgraduate Fellowship through Equal Justice Works or any other major fellowship program (including Soros, Skadden and Echoing Green). Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellows are, however, eligible to apply. Those who received a law school or law school clinical fellowship are also eligible to apply
Note that the Equal Justice Works Fellowship Program aims to create new public interest positions and launch new careers, so Equal Justice Works strongly encourages recent graduates to apply.
Also note that bar passage is not required at the time the application is due. However, bar passage within the first Fellowship year is required if determined necessary by the host organization and by the nature of the project. Equal Justice Works recommends speaking with potential host organizations regarding their bar requirements.
Q: How do I know if my law school is affiliated with Equal Justice Works?
A: Equal Justice Works is proudly affiliated with a significant number of law schools located around the country. Please visit our Member Schools list for the most up-to-date listing of participating law schools. The 2015-16 member list will be updated throughout the summer.
Q: What is the restriction on choosing a host organization at which I have previously been or am currently employed?
A: Equal Justice Works Fellowships are designed to create new public interest legal positions and launch new public interest careers. An individual who has worked as a full-time, permanent employee with the host organization for any length of time within one year of the application date may not be hired as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at that organization. Summer internships, work-study positions and other part-time, contract-based positions do not fall under this restriction.
Q: Are there any locations or issue areas that are more likely to be funded?
A: Equal Justice Works recruits law firms, corporations, bar associations, foundations and individuals that partner with us to fund the Fellowships. These funding partners are referred to as "sponsors." We encourage our sponsors to establish relationships with their Fellows from the beginning of the process throughout the Fellowship term. To facilitate that process, many sponsors provide us with geographic or issue preferences for their Fellowships (sponsors typically select projects based on issues of interest or in cities in which they have offices) and then participate in the interviews.
Q: Does Equal Justice Works prioritize particular substantive issues (e.g. domestic violence v. environment) or strategies (e.g. community education v. litigation)?
A: Equal Justice Works considers a wide variety of issue areas. Preference will be given to projects that are designed to impact a large number of people, create programs that can be replicated in other communities, and create lasting institutions or programs.
Q: Can organizations apply for more than one Equal Justice Works Fellow in a given year?
A: Given the intensity of the Fellowship competition, it is unusual for multiple Fellowships to be funded at a single host organization. However, if multiple Fellows are chosen, the host organization must be prepared to provide benefits, supervision, etc. for each Fellow. Additionally, because Fellows serve a two-year term, there may be more than one Fellow hosted at an organization at any given time if they are in overlapping class years.
Q: Can I be hosted by two separate organizations?
A: An Equal Justice Works Fellow may only be hosted by one organization. However, fellows and their host organizations are encouraged to collaborate with other organizations.
Q: An elected official is very interested in hosting my project. Can office holders host Equal Justice Works Fellows?
A: No, elected official offices may not serve as hosts. You may want to identify a nonprofit organization that could serve as your host and design your project to collaborate with the elected official office. You are advised to consult with your prospective host organization in this regard, as nonprofits have heavy restrictions on their lobbying activities.
Q: Are there any restrictions on the types of activities in which a fellow may engage?
A: In general, Equal Justice Works does not impose restrictions on the types of activities in which fellows may engage. However, Fellows are considered employees of their host organizations; therefore host organizations that must abide by Legal Services Corporation, Internal Revenue Service or other restrictions are responsible for determining how those restrictions apply to the fellow.
Q: I am not a recent law school graduate, but I am interested in your fellowship program. Is it too late for me to apply?
A: Equal Justice Works strongly encourages applications from candidates reflecting diverse cultural and experiential backgrounds; people with disabilities; people of diverse ethnic, racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds; work experiences; national origins; sexual orientations; and ages. There is no limit on the number of years out of law school, although Equal Justice Works strives to launch new public interest careers. Note, however, that there is a restriction on full-time permanent employees of the prospective host organization and those who have previously participated in another major fellowship program.
Q: When can I view the 2016 Equal Justice Works Fellowships application, and when do I have to submit it?
A: The application will be available on the Equal Justice Works website on July 6th, 2015. Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to create a profile and draft an application well in advance of the September deadline to get a sense for how the online application form works. Online drafts can be saved and updated on an ongoing basis until the deadline. The application must be submitted online by 5 p.m. ET on September 18, 2015. Letters of recommendation and the Certification Form must also be submitted online by this deadline.
Q: When will I know if I have been invited to interview?
A: Equal Justice Works will contact semifinalists from October through April set up interviews.
Q: Where will interviews be conducted? Will I be reimbursed for travel expenses?
A: Interviews will take place across the country between November and April. Each interview location depends upon the sponsor. For instance, a sponsor with offices in New York may choose to interview all semifinalists in New York. Some sponsors may choose to use videoconferencing technology to interview remote candidates. Equal Justice Works will make an effort to conduct the interviews in a location convenient to the candidate but will not cover travel expenses, if incurred.
Q: What will I be asked at the interview? How can I prepare?
A: Although there is no set interview format, we recommend that semifinalists practice answering generic interview questions with their prospective host organizations in preparation for the interview. Interviewees should know the proposal very well, be familiar with the proposed service area and any other legal services provided in that area, arrive at the interview location 15 minutes early, and wear business attire. If selected to interview, this is your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of and enthusiasm for the proposed project. Above all, just be yourself! Please see our interview preparation materials in our application guide.
Q: Who can I contact at Equal Justice Works to check on the status of my application?
A: Equal Justice Works will not provide individualized updates on the status of Fellowship applications. We do, however, send out periodic updates via email indicating whether a proposal is still under consideration or has been declined for further review. We will call all candidates who are selected to interview.
Q: How does the Equal Justice Works loan repayment assistance program work?
A: Equal Justice Works provides loan repayment assistance to Fellows who qualify through its Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). The amount of assistance a Fellow will receive is based upon the Income Based Repayment (IBR) amount on federally guaranteed loans that have been consolidated through the Federal Direct Loan Program.
Q: If I become a Fellow, what will be expected of me from my sponsor?
A: The relationship you have with your sponsor is an important one. Equal Justice Works' staff facilitates this relationship and will assist you throughout your fellowship. You may be asked to present to the sponsor's attorneys , attend special events, develop pro bono projects, and prepare written updates.
Q: The host organization I want to work with pays lawyers with my experience $43,000 a year, but I see that Equal Justice Works will only contribute up to $41,000 a year for my salary. Where does the other $2,000 come from?
A: All Equal Justice Works Fellows' host organizations submit a Certification Form with the application and subsequently execute a memorandum of agreement agreeing to pay Fellows a salary commensurate to what an attorney with similar experience and/or responsibility that is a full-time permanent employee of the host organization would be paid. Any salary costs over the Equal Justice Works contribution of $41,000 a year-- $2,000 in the example -- must be paid by the host organization.
Q: I missed the application deadline for this year's cycle but am interested in pursuing a project on my own. Does Equal Justice Works have any additional sources of funding?
A: Equal Justice Works currently administers three programs: AmeriCorps Legal Fellowships, AmeriCorps JD, and Equal Justice Works Fellowships. We encourage you to use our Resources page, visit other organizations committed to providing opportunities in public interest law and social justice, such as PSLawNet and Idealist, and speak with the career counselor at your school.
Q: I want to apply for a fellowship but am also interested in clerkships. Will Equal Justice Works defer an offer?
A: Once you accept an Equal Justice Works Fellowship offer, it may not be deferred. Our funding sources vary from year to year, so we must confirm Fellows for our 2016 sponsors in this funding cycle. You can reapply to Equal Justice Works in the final year of your clerkship.