In recognition of the centrality of racial inequity to many of the civil legal needs of people living in poverty in the US, we have updated the Skadden Fellowship application to include a question specifically on the role of public interest work in addressing systemic racism.
The foundation will award two-year fellowships for 2021 law school graduates, outgoing judicial law clerks, and LL.M. candidates who want to work in the public interest. The FAQs and key dates below provide general information about the Skadden Fellowship and our application process. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have additional questions or would like to discuss your specific project proposal.
The Application Process
Below is more information on the application process.
Q: When am I eligible to apply for the Skadden Fellowship?
A: You may apply during the fall of your final year of law school (generally 3L year), an LL.M., a clerkship, or the final year of a graduate program in which you were enrolled concurrently with your law degree. Law students graduating in the winter or attending law school part-time should apply in their final year, which may be their 4th year. You may still apply during an LL.M. or a clerkship even if you worked between graduating from law school and starting the LL.M. or clerkship. Applications are due on September 14, 2020.
Q: What is required in the application?
A: The following items must be submitted:
- Answers to four essay questions:
- For the first essay, bullet points are acceptable.
- Please note, we have expanded the word limit for the essays from 300 to a maximum of 400 words per essay. In order for all applicants to have an equal opportunity, 400 words is a firm limit.
- A commitment letter from your host organization. This letter is not word-limited, and should address the following topics:
- A commitment to host you for your fellowship, including providing adequate supervision and any resources necessary for travel to complete your work;
- Information about the organization and its clients;
- The organization’s, and your proposed supervisor’s, track record in meeting the needs of its clients and supervising beginning attorneys;
- A description of your project, its significance, and its fit within the organization’s work; and
- Additional insight regarding your qualifications.
- Two recommendations:
- One by a faculty member (either academic or clinical); and
- One by someone who has supervised your work. Preferably, this letter will be written by a lawyer who has overseen your legal work. If you wish for your host organization to write this recommendation based on your prior work for that organization, then the organization must submit two letters.
- Your law school transcript. This may be either official or unofficial, as long as the scan is legible.
- A copy of your resume. Feel free to provide one that is more than one page long. We are looking to learn who you are and see whether you’ve demonstrated a commitment to work in the service of others, particularly vulnerable populations. Please ensure there are no significant gaps in your resume — we would rather see paid or volunteer experience, even if you consider it irrelevant. Please ensure that you include (and describe) any language skills relevant to your proposed project.
- Two certifications, one to be signed by the applicant and one to be filled out and signed by the host organization.
Q: May I include any additional materials in my application?
A: You may attach limited additional material that relates directly to your project, but it is not necessary to do so. Allowable additional material is limited to:
- a recent, local article that specifically discusses the needs of your client population,
- coalition support letter(s) from organization(s) that you are likely to partner with during your fellowship. A coalition letter should be brief, and outline who the organization serves and what they do for their clients, why there is a need for the project you are proposing, and how they plan to work with you.
Additional recommendations and other extraneous materials are not allowed and will be discarded.
Q: How do I submit my application?
A: Download the application and certification pages from the website, fill them out and assemble the documents in the order indicated in the instructions. Email the two PDF files of your application to email@example.com, by September 14, 2020.
Q: What does the Skadden Foundation look for in applicants?
A: We are focused on the clients and whether the applicant and host organization are well positioned to serve the clients’ needs that the proposed project seeks to address. We are looking for passionate law students and judicial clerks who are committed to public interest work, will listen to their clients’ needs, and have insight into the role of a public interest lawyer. We do not have a specific cut-off for grades, but we are looking for very successful law students who will be excellent lawyers for their clients. We value applicants’ personal and professional experiences with and insight into living in poverty and in particular with the client population they seek to serve. Successful applicants’ records demonstrate academic accomplishment, meaningful public interest work, and leadership experience. We encourage applications from individuals who are members of groups that historically have been underrepresented in the legal profession, as well as from those whose personal or professional experiences have yielded deep connections with or insights into the marginalized client communities they seek to serve.
We do not have defined funding priorities or quotas for certain issue areas. Projects do not need to be innovative. In fact, we have found that Fellows report more favorable experiences and greater confidence in the service they provided to their clients when their project hews closely to the core mission of their host organization.
Q: How do I request an accommodations in the application process? Or as a Fellow?
A: We provide accommodations (and bear any accommodation-related expenses) during the selection process as requested, and also throughout our programming during the Fellowship. Many Skadden Fellows have received accommodations during the selection process and during their fellowships. During the selection process, those accommodations include ones for mobility (all offices in which the interviews occur are accessible), ASL interpretation, having a service animal present, live transcription, a lactation room, or other needed accommodations. Any applicant who may need assistance or accommodations should contact Kathy Quijije at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 735-5176. As our fellowship and accommodation coordinator, Kathy is not a member of the selection committee. During the Fellowship period, we regularly accommodate requests, including for personal, family, or medical leaves. If there are special circumstances that affect your participation in the Fellowship or any of our programs, please let us know.
Q: How many applications do you receive, and how many fellowships are granted?
A: We receive approximately 200 applications annually for 28 slots.
Q: What if my host organization or law school has never had a Fellow?
A: That is not a problem. You can introduce us to an exemplary organization — we simply have not gotten to them all yet — and every day new organizations are being founded by accomplished legal services attorneys. Similarly, we are always looking for students who have excelled at schools that have not previously had a successful fellowship applicant.
Q: Do you have a GPA cut-off?
A: No, but because the clients whom Fellows serve have significant and often complex legal needs, we are looking for excellent students. Many successful candidates will be at the very top of their law school classes, and most will have grades that fall in their law school’s top quartile. We look at the whole applicant, including their letters of recommendation. We know that some applicants attend law schools without grading systems and that schools have different grading curves. We also understand that some students go to school at night because they work full-time, or have family obligations, and such circumstances may impact their grades and activities in law school.
Q: Do I have to be a U.S. citizen or attend a U.S. law school to apply?
A: No. But in connection with your employment with your host organization, you will be required to verify your identity and eligibility to work in the United States, as required by applicable law. You must have taken or plan to take a bar exam in the United States.
Q: After I submit my application, when will I hear back?
A: We anticipate that approximately 100 applicants will be invited to an in-person interview. If you are selected to receive an interview, Skadden Fellowship coordinator Kathy Quijije will call you on September 24th to make the arrangements. After the interviews, the Advisory Committee selects approximately 56 finalists who will be presented to the Selection Trustees. If you are a finalist, we will call you on October 16, 2020. If not, you will receive an email letting you know. The Selection Trustees will meet on November 12, 2020, to select the Fellows, and we’ll call the finalists to let you know either way on November 13, 2020.
Q: What if I have additional questions?
A: You may call or email anytime. The Skadden Foundation is committed to the complete transparency of the application process. Our contact information is here.
Your Project Proposal
Below is more information to assist with your project proposal.
Q: How do I develop an application proposal?
A: You will need to secure a host organization with which you will apply. Together, you will design a project proposal. In honing your application, please feel free to reach out to us.
Q: What types of work does the Skadden Foundation fund?
A: Skadden Fellowships address the civil legal needs of people living in poverty. Your project must be legal in nature, and serve poor clients, though we do not have a strict test of poverty.
Q: Are there types of work the Skadden Foundation does not fund?
A: Yes. We do not fund criminal representation. Within civil public interest work, you should be aware that there are certain project areas which we have not funded, which would fall outside our current funding guidelines. When you look through the prior fellowship projects on our website, particularly from the past 5-10 years, you will see that certain subject matter areas have received the support of the Foundation, while others have not. If you are unsure if your idea fits within our funding parameters, or would like advice on how to frame and focus your proposal, we encourage you to contact us while you are formulating the project.
Q: What types of lawyering strategies and advocacy does the Skadden Foundation fund?
A: Skadden Fellowships are open to a broad array of lawyering strategies. Most projects we fund will include some direct client representation, and many projects we fund combine various types of advocacy. In addition to exclusively direct representation projects, Skadden Fellows have worked on projects focusing on transactional work, impact litigation, movement lawyering, and more. Overall, we expect that the applicant and host organization be well-prepared to deliver the planned legal advocacy, and that the host organization has expertise in the type of lawyering contemplated. You should not add a legal component (such as direct service or impact litigation) in hopes of making your proposal more competitive; instead you should craft your project to best address the legal needs of your clients. There are, however, some specific points to keep in mind about systemic reform projects. Before a Fellow represents clients as a class, or works exclusively with organizational clients, we expect the applicant to deeply understand their clients as individuals, as well as the attorney-client relationship. We therefore expect applicants with more systemic proposals and their host organizations to have a high degree of insight into their client population. Movement or community lawyering proposals should, in all likelihood, come with one or more coalition support letters (see additional materials, below).
Q: Where geographically may Skadden Fellows work?
A: A Fellow’s project must be located in the United States, its territories, or an American Indian, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian community.
Q: What if I have additional questions?
A: You may call or email anytime. The Skadden Foundation is committed to the complete transparency of the application process.
Below is more information about the Skadden Fellowship.
Q: When do successful applicants start their fellowship?
A: Fellows select their start date with their host organization. Your fellowship must begin in the fall (between August and October, absent extraordinary circumstances).
Q: Who employs the Fellows?
A: Fellows are employees of the host organization.
Q: What salary and benefits are provided to Fellows?
A: Fellows in the class of 2021 will be provided a salary of $54,000 a year for the two years of the fellowship. Fellows work full-time for their host organization and cannot take additional paid work outside their fellowship. The Foundation pays the salary to the host organization and reimburses it for certain benefits that the Fellow would be entitled to as a staff attorney (including medical insurance). Fellows also have access to loan forgiveness for the debt service due during their fellowship on loans for law school tuition, if low-income protection is not provided by their law school and their host organization is not supplementing their salary. Fellows each have a budget of $2,000 to attend legal conferences relevant to their fellowship.
Q: What other support is provided to Fellows during their fellowship?
A: Skadden Fellows receive significant support. The April before your fellowship begins, and each year during your fellowship, Fellows attend a symposium in New York City with incoming and current Fellows. Fellows call us for advice and support on topics large and small. Skadden attorneys often provide pro bono legal work for cases and matters of both current and former Fellows. Current Fellows are provided complimentary access to LexisNexis as well as unlimited in-person and web-based CLE by the Practicing Law Institute. Both current and former Fellows are connected to our website, where they can electronically reach anyone else in the Skadden Fellowship network; have access to webinars and podcasts on topics of interest to public interest attorneys; are invited to join our LinkedIn group and Slack channel; and receive a regular newsletter with updates about members of the Skadden Fellowship community.
Q: What additional support is available after the conclusion of the fellowship?
A: We consider you a Fellow for life. Former Fellows are periodically invited to regional reunions and networking opportunities. Former Fellows can apply for funding, including $5,000 to write an academic article of relevance to the public interest law community and $10,000 to experiment with a novel approach to benefit your clients (through a fund-within-a-fund called the Flom Incubator Grants (FIGs)). Former Fellows continue to keep in touch with the Foundation and benefit from the network of other current and former Fellows.
Q: What reporting is required in connection with the fellowship?
A: No ongoing reporting is required during the fellowship, but we keep in touch with current Fellows. Upon the completion of your fellowship, you are required to submit a confidential evaluation of your experience at your host organization.
Host Organization Requirements
Below is more information about the host organization requirements.
Q: What are the eligibility requirements for a host organization?
A: The host organization must be its own 501(c)(3); it cannot be a project or clinic within a law school. The organization must currently employ at least two attorneys on staff who devote the significant majority of their working time to civil legal advocacy, and anticipate maintaining at least two such attorneys (not including the Fellow) during the two-year Fellowship term. The host organization must provide a commitment letter and complete the Host Organization Certification included in the application materials.
Q: May we host more than one Skadden Fellow at a time?
A: Yes, though each Skadden Fellow must work on distinct issues, serve distinct populations, be supervised by different attorneys, and be hosted within a separate geographic office or practice group of your organization. An organization with fewer than 50 attorneys may host up to two Skadden Fellows in any two year period. Organizations with 50 or more attorneys may host up to four Skadden Fellows in any two year period.
Q: May we serve as the host organization for more than one Skadden Fellowship applicant in a single application cycle?
A: A significant majority of organizations choose to serve as the host organization for only one Skadden Fellowship applicant in a single cycle. Our guideline is that organizations with fewer than 20 attorneys should generally only serve as the host organization for one Skadden Fellowship applicant in a single cycle. Organizations with between 20 and 50 attorneys should generally serve as the host organization for up to two Skadden Fellowship applicants in a single cycle. Organizations with 50 or more attorneys may, within reason, serve as the host organization for more than two Skadden Fellowship applicants in a single cycle. Any organization hosting more than one Skadden Fellowship applicant in a single cycle must ensure that the applicants will: work on distinct issues, serve distinct populations, be supervised by different attorneys, and be hosted within a separate geographic office or practice group of your organization. If you intend to serve as the host to more than one applicant in a cycle, we strongly encourage you to discuss this with your candidates. If any of this is unclear, or you have any questions, please email us to discuss.
Q: What should be contained in the host organization commitment letter?
A: This letter, which is not word-limited, should address the following topics:
- A commitment to host the fellowship applicant, including providing adequate supervision and any resources necessary for the Fellow to travel for fellowship work;
- Information about the organization and its clients;
- The organization’s, and the proposed supervisor’s, track record in meeting the needs of its clients and supervising beginning attorneys;
- A description of the project, its significance and its fit within the organization’s work; and
- Additional insight regarding the applicant’s qualifications
Q: We have hosted Fellows before, does the new Host Organization Certification change our role as host?
A: No. The certification is intended to provide greater transparency and uniform information for all potential host organizations and applicants. It reflects the Foundation’s prior practices. If you have questions about the certification, please email us to discuss.
Q: What if we have additional questions?
A: Potential host organizations are also welcome to call or email anytime with questions.