How to Apply for a 2023 Design-Your-Own Fellowship through Equal Justice Works

/ Blog Post

An Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship presents a one-of-a-kind opportunity to create your dream job. This Fellowship opportunity allows you to leverage your law degree in service of a community or cause of your choice.

Interested in joining this incredible program? Here’s what you need to know about applying for a Fellowship.

How can an Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship jumpstart my legal career?

85% of Equal Justice Works Fellows remain in public service positions and continue to pursue equal justice for underserved communities across the country following their Fellowships. There are more than 2,400 alumni across all Equal Justice Works Fellowship programs. Fellow alums like Casey Trupin have started organizations that now host Equal Justice Works Fellows, while others like Cynthia Cornelius and Michael Pope now serve in leadership positions at the organizations where they were hosted as Fellows.

Who is eligible?

Our Design-Your-Own Fellowship is open to individuals who have graduated from an Equal Justice Works Member Law School before September 2024 with a J.D. or LLM. Applicants may not have previously held a full time (more than 30 hours/week), permanent, public interest lawyer position, though applicants coming from bridge/gap fellowships or clerkships are eligible. For more specifics about eligibility requirements, check out page five of our applicant guide.

What type of training do Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellows receive?

Each fall, Equal Justice Works provides Fellows with three days of Leadership Development Training with experts in the field. The training equips Fellows with necessary practical leadership and management skills to help them succeed in their Fellowships and beyond. It also provides Fellows with opportunities to learn more about working in specific fields of public interest law and to network with peer Fellows and Fellowship alumni. For more information on the Leadership Development Training, click here.

Throughout the two-year program, Equal Justice Works also provides Fellows with virtual and in-person networking and learning sessions; optional, periodic training opportunities; and tools, resources, and other assistance to support their work.

What type of work can I do during my Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship?

You get to decide what type of work best suits your project! Projects may include direct representation, legal education, legal training, community organizing, transactional work, policy work, litigation, administrative representation, or a combination of these strategies. Many successful Fellowship project applications are multi-faceted in their approach while also avoiding utilizing every type of approach available. For more information about eligible projects, check out page five of our applicant guide.

Please visit the Fellow Archive to see what kinds of projects Fellows have done and are doing at nonprofit Host Organizations across the U.S./U.S. territories. We recommend that applicants collaborate closely with their potential future Host Organization to design their project proposal. Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowships may be fully remote, fully in-person or hybrid in nature.

How do I find a Host Organization for a Fellowship?

Fellows work at Host Organizations for the two-year duration of their Design-Your-Own Fellowship. Applicants and Host Organization staff work closely to design the Fellowship, though the prospective Fellow is ultimately responsible for submitting the application. Host Organizations must be a nonprofit legal services organization—or an organization able to provide legal supervision—in the United States. More details on eligibility requirements may be found on page five of the applicant guide.

Applicants may search on popular job platforms or social media for organizations who are actively recruiting an Equal Justice Works Fellow. We also recommend reaching out via email or phone to organizations that are already doing the kind of work you are interested in. This could include organizations where you have interned/volunteered, become familiar with during your studies, or which are active in your community or neighborhood. Check out the Fellow Archive and search by Host Organizations for inspiration. However, please note that there is no need for an organization to have hosted a Fellow previously in order to host a Fellow in the future! More information is available in the recording of the “How to Apply and Tips to Succeed” webinar (in English hereand in English and Spanish here).

How do I submit a strong Design-Your-Own Fellowship application?

A Design-Your-Own Fellowship project addresses an unmet legal need for an underserved community. A project proposal should paint a picture of the particular problem you want to solve, in the specific community you wish to serve. Standout applications weave in data, client stories, and personal narratives to demonstrate the potential impact of the project, while underscoring the applicant’s strong connection to the issue area and target community. This can include lived experience; what you have seen or experienced as a pressing, under-addressed legal need in your community or neighborhood; academic studies; or volunteerism/internship experience.

Strong applications demonstrate a clear alignment between the applicant and the Host Organization’s mission and work, as well as a strong fit between the applicant and the legal issue the project addresses and/or the community (people, geographical area) that the project serves. As noted above, competitive applications use multiple approaches without employing every approach available. They also present a menu of creative, varied options for potential sponsor involvement.

Competitive applications are also easy to follow and understand from an external reader’s point of view. We recommend assembling a review team of a Host Organization staffer, law school professor, and law school career services staff member to read through your application for clarity, concision, and the extent to which the answers respond to the questions asked.

Our “How to Apply and Tips to Succeed” webinar (available as a recording in English here and in English and Spanish here) includes a deep dive into crafting a competitive application.

We also strongly recommend you register here to attend a “last minute tips” webinar in August or September.

What kind of applications are sponsors likely to support?

Sponsors are the law firms, corporations, foundations, or individuals that fund Fellowships and support Fellows during the two years of their Design-Your-Own Fellowship. While sponsors often specify which issue areas and geographic preferences they will fund, plenty of sponsors have no such preferences and are interested in supporting impactful projects.

Here you will find the current sponsor preference list, which is periodically updated. It shows where sponsors have expressed dedicated interest in the geographic and issue areas; it is neither exhaustive nor final.

Check out webinar recordings with more information on applying for funding by region, and sponsor preferences, here.

Equal Justice Works encourages projects and applications in all geographic and issue areas from applicants who have a passion for pursuing our nation’s promise of equal justice for all.

Are you ready to apply?

The application is divided into three distinct expository sections: the project description, candidate background, and host organization background. Additionally, applicants will also need to provide a personal statement, résumé, professional reference, and two letters of recommendation. To get a sense of what the application entails without logging in to the submission platform, check out this reference application.

For more information about the application process, review page 15 of our applicant guide. Also check out a recording of the “How to Apply and Tips to Succeed” webinar (in English here and in English and Spanish here).

Have more questions?

In addition to the resources linked above, please see the Frequently Asked Questions document.

Technical Questions?

This application cycle, Equal Justice Works is using the Submittable platform for Design-Your-Own Fellowship applications.

Check out the Submitter Resource Center or contact Submittable Customer Support for additional information and with questions/issues. Please note that all technical or Submittable questions should be directed to Submittable Customer Support rather than Equal Justice Works. You can even submit such questions while completing your application!

Be sure to submit your application online here before the deadline on September 12, 2023 at midnight ET. For more information about the Design-Your-Own Fellowship, check out our website!

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow