frequently asked questions

Why host a Public Rights Project Fellow?

Affirmative litigation and enforcement is a key tool for state and local government offices. But, as former government lawyers ourselves, we know very well how challenging it is to pursue this type of work on behalf of your community, particularly when resources are limited. Affirmative work can protect people’s ability to take out a mortgage, gain equal access to housing or a job, invest in their education, drink clean water, and breathe clean air. But it often doesn’t get the attention it deserves because government lawyers have other pressing defensive, criminal prosecution, and counseling responsibilities.

A Public Rights Project Fellow can help you devote time and attention to developing, deepening, and growing your office’s affirmative docket. They can lead initiatives, add power and energy to existing case teams, and generate new and innovative ideas for enforcement matters. They are passionate about public service and eager to make an impact in the host office communities they serve.

Public Rights Project Fellows are licensed attorneys with litigation and legal experience. Throughout their fellowships, they also receive professional development and training from Public Rights Project, which expands their skillset and knowledge and is directly applicable to their work in their host offices.

Who are Public Rights Project Fellows?

Public Rights Project Fellows are attorneys with roughly 3-5 years of post-law school experience with a passion for public service and an eagerness to use the power of government to improve people’s lives. Our current fellows hold law degrees from Fordham University School of Law, the University of Michigan Law School, New York University School of Law, Stanford Law School, and Yale Law School. They hold degrees from seven undergraduate colleges and universities. Before their fellowships, they have worked in private practice, legal non-profits, the federal government, and federal clerkships. They hail from five states and the United Kingdom.

For more information about each of our current Public Rights Project Fellows, please visit our website.

When is the application deadline?

To apply to host a fellow to join your office in fall 2020, please submit your application by December 15, 2019.

How are partners selected?

Public Rights Project will review host office applications on a rolling basis through our application deadline. We will schedule calls with host office applicants to better understand their goals in participating in the program and how they would include a Public Rights Project Fellow in the work of their teams. 

Public Rights Project will consider the following criteria in selecting host offices:

  • The office’s commitment to building or expanding their affirmative docket

  • How much value an attorney fellow could provide the host office

  • The office’s capacity and willingness to supervise an attorney fellow pursuing affirmative investigations and litigation

  • Available funding

What is the timeline for selection of host offices?

Our timeline for selecting host offices for the 2020 fellowship class will be:

September 2019 - Application Opens

December 2019 - Application Closes

September 2019 - January 2020 - Conversations with Host Office Applicants

January 2020 - Host Office Selections

February 2020 - Finalization of Placement Agreements Between Public Rights Project and Host offices

What is the timeline for selection of fellows?

Our tentative timeline for selecting fellows for the 2020 fellowship class is:

March  2020 - Application Opens

May 2020 - Application Closes

June 2020 - Semi-Finalist Candidate Video Interviews

July 2020 - Finalist Candidate In-person Interviews

Late July 2020 - Fellowships Offered

September 2020 - Fellowship Orientation

September 2020 - Fellows Start Work in Host Offices

How are fellows funded?

Public Rights Project can place fellows using 3 different cost structures: 

  • Public Rights Project can help host offices fill existing vacancies in their office for temporary or permanent positions, funded by the host office or a third party (e.g., a law school public interest fellowship). Public Rights Project provides recruitment, selection, training, and professional development services to the fellow and the host office, depending on the office’s needs, at no cost to the host office. 

  • Public Rights Project can co-fund fellowships with host offices, in which Public Rights Project funds a portion of the position through charitable funding and the host office contributes a portion of the position cost. There are a limited number of fellowship positions available under this option. 

  • Public Rights Project partners with host offices to raise the entire cost of the position through charitable donations or foundation grants. There are a limited number of fellowship positions available under this option. 

How much does the fellowship cost? If my office wants to fund a portion or help raise charitable funds to support a fellow, what funds are required?

The overall cost of the Public Rights Project Fellowship is approximately $150,000 per fellow per year. This cost includes the following:

    • The annual fellowship stipend, typically between $60,000-$90,000 depending on the fellow’s years of experience and the host office’s salary schedule;

    • Public Rights Project’s time and costs for recruitment and selection, including candidate and Public Rights Project staff travel;

    • Substantive training and professional development programming -- including a multi-day orientation, mentorship program, and other virtual and in-person trainings -- for fellows and, in some cases, host office staff; and 

    • Event costs for training programs, including travel, lodging, and food for fellows and host office staff participants.

As noted above, there are different structures available for how Public Rights Project and the host office can share these costs. Please contact us if you have any questions.

How long is the fellowship?

The fellowship runs for two years. The next fellowship will start in September 2020 and end in August 2022.

How are candidates selected for the fellowship?

Public Rights Project conducts a nationwide search to recruit and select candidates for fellowships. We work with host offices at the outset to understand their needs and preferences for fellowship selection. We then employ a structured interview process with multiple rounds of evaluation that we have carefully developed using best practices for diversity, equity, and inclusion. For a full list of the criteria we use to evaluate candidates, please visit our candidate-facing page.

Public Rights Project administers and guides host offices through the entire selection process, seeking input from offices at every stage. Public Rights Project and its board make final fellowship selection decisions in close collaboration with host offices. Public Rights Project is committed to the principles and practices of equal employment opportunity. We aim to assemble an applicant pool that represents the face of the world we live in. We believe that a variety of perspectives enrich the efficacy of the work of local and state governments. We encourage applications from candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for the fellowship without regard to their race, religion, ancestry, national origin, ethnicity, sex, gender (including pregnancy and gender identity or expression), sexual orientation, color, age, mental or physical disability, marital status, veteran status, genetic information, medical condition, or any other classification protected by federal, state, or local law or ordinance.

What kind of professional development training does Public Rights Project provide?

Public Rights Project provides professional development to our fellows throughout their fellowship years. Our curriculum is tailored to the needs and skills of each fellowship class. Previous trainings have included:

  • Deposition Skills, with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy

  • Advancing Racial Equity: the Role of Government Enforcers, with the Government Alliance for Race and Equity

  • Writing and Organizing Effective Amicus Briefs

  • Public Speaking for Government Lawyers

  • Introduction to Community-Based Enforcement

What kind of mentorship does a Public Rights Project Fellow have access to?

Public Rights Project fellows will have access to a national network of experienced affirmative litigators. In addition to this network, Public Rights Project will pair each fellow to a mentor based on experience level and indicated interests that will help them navigate legal obstacles, brainstorm innovative ideas and continue their career in public service.

What are the typical responsibilities of a fellow?

Fellows will work with colleagues in their government offices on affirmative litigation (including new case generation and ongoing affirmative litigation), coalition building and community engagement, policy research, and other projects developed with their placement offices as needed. Fellows assignments are developed, given, and overseen by their host offices and align with the priorities of the office.

A fellow’s litigation docket will include exclusively affirmative work, defined as either:

  • Litigation, investigations, or other enforcement strategies in a proactive capacity, in which the agency is the plaintiff, potential plaintiff, or amici on the plaintiff’s side; or

  • Litigation or potential litigation in which the agency is the defendant or amici on the defendant’s side, but in which the agency is defending proactive policy choices that protect and/or expand the civil, economic, or environmental rights of residents. For example, if a city is sued by someone challenging an anti-discrimination city ordinance, the fellow may work on defending the city in that litigation. In some circumstances, fellows may also help draft legislation or comment on proposed rulemaking that impacts the host office’s ability to enforce the law and protect its community.

Fellows will also publish at least one blog post, article or policy paper with Public Rights Project during their fellowship on a topic related to their work. For example, a fellow working on predatory lending may publish an issue brief identifying strategies and legal theories other state and local governments may wish to use to address the problem in their communities.