Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Compensation Structure of the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program (“JDD Program”)?
This year, American University Washington College of Law (“WCL”) is providing funding for 36 fellowships, each lasting for twelve months. (“WCL Fellowship”). The WCL Fellowship will provide a $2,000 stipend per month for a 12 month period from September 3, 2013 through September 5, 2014. The stipend payment will be paid monthly, starting at the end of September, 2013 with the final payment at the end of August, 2014.
Due to a generous contribution from the Student Bar Association (“SBA”), an additional seven fellowships are available this year, each lasting for six months (“SBA Fellowship”). The SBA Fellowship will provide a $2,000 stipend per month for a 6 month period from September 3, 2013 to March 5, 2014. The stipend payment will be paid monthly, starting at the end of September, 2013 with the final payment at the end of February, 2014.
Because graduates in the JDD Program (“Fellows”) are expected to engage in a continuing job search, some Fellows will secure permanent employment before the end of their fellowship. In that case, Fellows will end participation in the JDD Program early and forego any future payments, but will not be required to return any of the funding already received. The stipend provided by the JDD Program is based on a 35 hour per week fellowship. Fellows will not be compensated by the JDD Program for work they perform in excess of 35 hours per week during the term of their fellowship and/or for any work performed outside the dates of their fellowship.
The dates of the WCL Fellowship and the SBA Fellowship may not be amended, although Fellows and their Fellowship Sponsors may arrange for the Fellows to work additional hours as volunteers or through other funding sources. If an applicant has already secured partial funding from a Fellowship Sponsor or some other employer, the applicant is still eligible to apply for the JDD Program if the annualized salary secured does not exceed $25,000.
Fellows must sign a Professional Services Agreement with American University and complete all hiring paperwork by Friday, August 2, 2013. Fellows will be considered independent contractors of American University and, as such, will not have taxes withheld and are not eligible for health insurance or other benefits through the University.
What Kind of Fellowship Sponsor Qualifies?
The Fellowship Sponsor may be for profit or non-profit, domestic or international. Be sure to choose a Fellowship Sponsor which will provide you with excellent supervision, substantive legal work, and experience that will bolster the narrative of your resume.
I Did Not Receive a JD Degree from WCL, but I am Graduating from a WCL LLM Program in 2013. Can I Apply?
No. You must be a JD graduate from the WCL Class of 2013 in order to apply in 2013.
I'm a recent graduate of the WCL dual degree program with Nanterre University in Paris. Although for the purposes of taking the bar exam, I graduated from WCL in May 2012, due to differences in the academic calendars between the two schools, I didn't finish my Master II at Nanterre until November, 2012. Am I eligible to apply for a JD Distinguished Fellowship with others from the class of 2013?
Yes, you are eligible. In order to complete the final portion of your degree, you had to continue studying in France past your WCL graduation date, working on your final thesis and taking oral exams. The WCL-Nanterre dual degree program obligates students to continue their studies through the fall after graduation from WCL in order to finish their degree. This is the normal course of study for students who complete the program and there is no alternative. You effectively did not finish your WCL degree until November, 2012.
I graduated from WCL in the spring of 2012 and then completed the MA portion of my JD/MA at the School of International Service in the fall, graduating in December of 2012. Am I eligible to apply for a JD Distinguished Fellowship with others from the class of 2013?
No, you are not eligible. You would have been eligible to apply for a JD Distinguished Fellowship in the spring of 2012 when you finished your Juris Doctor degree. Joint degree students may work as fellows while completing their MA degrees.
What if I Secure a Permanent Position During the Fellowship?
Because Fellows are expected to engage in a continuing job search, some Fellows will secure permanent employment before the end of their fellowships. In that case, Fellows will end participation in the JDD Program early and forego any future payments, but will not be required to return any of the funding already received. In the event that a Fellow must end his or her fellowship early, the Fellow is expected to give the Fellowship Sponsor as much notice as possible (at least two weeks). The Fellow will contact the Office of Public Interest at firstname.lastname@example.org to alert the Office of the impending termination of the fellowship. The Fellow will work with the Fellowship Sponsor to ensure that all assignments have been completed or that someone has been identified to finish each assignment. The Fellow will complete a transfer memo for each assignment, if appropriate. The Fellow will also complete a Fellowship Exit Survey, to be provided to the Fellow by the Office of Public Interest or the Office of Career and Professional Development.
Is There a Cost of Living Adjustment For Geographic Location?
There will not be any “cost of living” adjustments based on geographic location.
Can I split my time in the JDD Program and apply with more than one Fellowship Sponsor?
Applicants may split the time that they are in the fellowship program between multiple Fellowship Sponspors. So, for instance, an applicant may propose spending four months with one Fellowship Sponsor and then moving to a second Fellowship Sponsor for the last eight months of the fellowship. However, in order to ensure that Fellows have a meaningful experience at each Fellowship Sponsor, an applicant may not propose spending less than four months at a particular Fellowship Sponsor. Other combinations are acceptable (for instance, five months and seven months, or six months and six months).
If you are splitting your time, you must submit two Fellowship Sponsor Certification Forms. You must also provide in your application, either in your personal statement or in a short addendum, a compelling reason for splitting your time.
I want to pursue my current interests by working with Fellowship Sponsor A, but I think that the narrative of my resume and my prior experience point to my working with Fellowship Sponsor B. Can I submit two applications and see which one gets funded?
An applicant can submit two applications. However, because the selection process is anonymous, there must be a way for the selection committee to avoid awarding two fellowships to the same person. Therefore, an applicant submitting two applications should submit the two applications all scanned together into one PDF. It would also be advisable to submit a short addendum explaining why you are submitting two applications. In addition, you need only submit one copy of pages 1-3 of the application. Obviously, you will have to submit two Fellowship Sponsor Certification Forms.
Alternatively, you could choose to work at both organizations by splitting your time between them. An applicant may propose spending 4 months with one Fellowship Sponsor and then moving to a second Fellowship Sponsor for the last eight months of the fellowship. However, in order to ensure that Fellows have a meaningful experience at each Fellowship Sponsor, an applicant may not propose spending less than four months at a particular Fellowship Sponsor. Other combinations are acceptable (for instance, five months and seven months, or six months and six months). This may not be a wise option for applicants whose two placements are at cross-purposes to each other, with regard to career development.
If you are splitting your time, you must submit two Fellowship Sponsor Certification Forms. You must also provide in your application, either in your personal statement or in a short addendum, a compelling reason for splitting your time.
The Application Form asks me to certify that I have completed the WCL Graduation Survey, located on CareerLink. How do I do that?
To complete your survey, please log onto CareerLink and follow a few easy steps:
1. Select the "Profile" tab.
2. Select “Switch to Tab View.”
3. Select "Graduate Survey."
4. Fill out the survey in its entirety. Be sure to indicate your current status (in this case, Employed; Seeking Work; Not Seeking Work, Enrolled in a Full-Time Degree Program) and to provide any and all associated details. As fellowships have not yet been awarded, please do not report WCL or your anticipated fellowship sponsor as your employer at this time. If you have no other employment, you are currently "Seeking Work."
5. After completing the entire survey, submit it by clicking "Finalize."
**In many cases, it will be necessary for OCPD to confirm your status for reporting deadlines in February 2014. Please ensure you have included correct email and phone contact information for that purpose and for job search assistance (if necessary). All information will be treated as confidential and reported anonymously.
Can I start my fellowship in November?
A Fellow must work during the defined fellowship term: September 3, 2013 through September 5, 2014 for the WCL Fellowship and September 3, 2013 to March 5, 2014 for the SBA Fellowship. A Fellow cannot start after September 3, 2013. If a Fellow starts early, the Fellow will be volunteering for the Fellowship Sponsor outside of the JDD Program, and the Fellow must still have a commitment from the Fellowship Sponsor for the full term of the fellowship. If a Fellow works past the end of the fellowship term, the Fellow will be volunteering for the Fellowship Sponsor and will not be able to receive payment through the JDD Program.
Am I Still Eligible to Apply if My Hours Do Not Meet the Stated Requirements?
Your Fellowship Sponsor must be able to commit to providing you with at least an average of 35 hours of work per week over the course of the fellowship.
Am I Considered an “Employee” of Either the Fellowship Sponsor or WCL?
For the duration of the fellowship, Fellows are considered independent contractors of WCL. This applies regardless of whether the commitment is from a WCL program/center or external entity. Fellowship Sponsors should be instructed to consider Fellows as “unpaid interns” or “volunteer attorneys” and they should be internally managed as such. The Fellowship Sponsor must commit to provide 35 hours per week of substantive legal work for the duration of the fellowship. If the Fellow is receiving partial funding from another source, the graduate should consult with that source to determine his or her “employee” status for those funds. Fellows will be considered independent contractors of American University and as such will not have taxes withheld from monthly payments and are not eligible for health insurance or other benefits through the University.
If I am chosen as a JD Distinguished Fellowship Program Fellow, will my work qualify me for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?
As a JD Distinguished Fellow, you will be working full-time (35 hours per week, in this case) for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (American University), although on a contract basis. Such employment does qualify you for participation in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Be sure to speak with your servicer/lender to confirm that your loans are under the right type of repayment plan in order to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Learn more about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
If I am chosen as a JD Distinguished Fellowship Program Fellow, will my work qualify me for the WCL Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance Program (PILRAP)?
As a JD Distinguished Fellow, you will be working full-time (35 hours per week, in this case) for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (American University). As such, you will be eligible to participate in the PILRAP program. However, you should determine what your annual loan obligation will be before you apply for PILRAP. In early August, you should research loan repayment plans and determine which one is right for you, before you go into repayment. You will most likely choose the Income-Based Repayment Plan or the Pay As You Earn Plan. You should work with your lender/servicer to enroll in the correct plan in advance of the October deadline for submitting your PILRAP application. It is possible that you will not need to apply for PILRAP (if, for instance, your annual loan repayment obligation is zero because your only income for the year is $12,000 from an SBA Fellowship). Keep in mind that you do not have to report changes in your income to your servicer/lender but once a year (on your anniversary date). Therefore, if your IBR obligation is set at zero, then it will be zero for a full year. Visit the PILRAP website to learn more.
Will I Receive Health Care Benefits as a Fellow?
Fellows will not receive health care benefits from either the Fellowship Sponsor or WCL. Health care costs should be considered when determining whether to apply for this program.
What is Considered “Substantitive Legal or Law-Related Work”?
The JDD Program is designed for graduates to accept temporary employment that will advance their career development. The JD Distinguished Fellowship Selection Committee will review applications for placement descriptions that will enhance the recipient’s resume. There is no requirement that the applicant be “practicing law.” The Fellow must be primarily engaged in substantive legal or law-related work such as substantive legal research, policy analysis, memo drafting, client interviewing, court appearances, etc. The Fellow may not spend any substantial period of time on administrative duties such as copying, scanning, updating databases, answering phones, etc. While it is expected that the Fellow will perform his or her own administrative work as it arises in the context of his or her substantive work, the Fellow may not routinely perform someone else’s administrative work.
Can I Apply if I am also Pursuing a WCL LLM Degree?
WCL offers three options for recent graduates who are interested in pursuing a WCL LLM degree immediately after graduation: (1) a 25% tuition reduction coupled with a $11,850 Graduate Legal Fellowship; (2) a 50% tuition reduction; or (3) no tuition reduction for those graduates who are participating in the JDD Program.
1. 50% Tuition Reduction
WCL will offer a 50% discounted tuition for 2013 JD graduates who wish to pursue an LLM degree at WCL in the Fall 2013 or Spring 2014. Graduates who elect to pursue the 50% LLM tuition discount are not eligible for the JDD Program or for the Graduate Legal Fellowship.
2. Graduate Legal Fellowship and 25% Tuition Reduction
Applicants who are not selected for the JDD Program may elect to have their applications considered for a Graduate Legal Fellowship within one of the three LLM programs at WCL. Graduate Legal Fellows enroll in the 24-credit LLM degree at WCL and receive a 25% tuition reduction and a stipend of $11,570 to allow them to pursue graduate legal studies at WCL. During each of the two fourteen-week semesters in which the Graduate Legal Fellow is enrolled in the LLM Program, the Fellow is expected to work at least 10 hours per week (or more pursuant to their agreement with their Fellowship Sponsor) with the Fellowship Sponsor listed in the JDD Program application. Graduate Legal Fellowships are available in a variety of specializations in a given year. Availability of a Graduate Legal Fellowship in a field is dependent on the quality of applicants and availability of resources. Current areas of focus and additional information about the Graduate Legal Fellowship and WCL’s LLM programs is available at http://www.wcl.american.edu/llm/glf.
Graduates may not be selected for both the JDD Program and the Graduate Legal Fellowship. Applicants who indicate an interest in the Graduate Legal Fellowship will be considered for that fellowship only if the applicant is not first selected for the JDD Program. Applicants’ requests that they be considered for the Graduate Legal Fellowship will have no bearing on the JD Distinguished Fellowship Selection Committee’s assessment of the JDD Program applications.
3. No reduction of tuition
This option is available for graduates who have been selected for the JDD Program and intend to concurrently pursue an LLM degree.
Who are the Members of the Selection Committee?
The Selection Committee is comprised of members of the Faculty and Senior Administration of WCL. In order to ensure that no applicants receive unfair advantage, the names of the Committee members are not disclosed.
How Do I Know Whether I Will Receive a Six-month or a Year-long Fellowship?
This year, American University Washington College of Law (“WCL”) is providing funding for 36 fellowships, each lasting for twelve months. (“WCL Fellowship”). Due to a generous contribution from the Student Bar Association (“SBA”), an additional seven fellowships are available this year, each lasting for six months (“SBA Fellowship”). The JD Distinguished Fellowship Program Selection Committee will choose Fellows through a selective process. Fellows will be selected for the SBA Fellowship after the initial 36 Fellows have been chosen for the WCL Fellowship.
My Fellowship Sponsor is an organization which has a six month position available. How do I apply for the SBA Fellowship?
You must apply for, and be eligible for, the WCL Fellowship in order to receive the SBA Fellowship. Therefore, you cannot receive any fellowship with the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program unless you have a commitment from a Fellowship Sponsor for a full year. You cannot apply for a six month fellowship. Fellows will be selected for the SBA Fellowship after the initial Fellows have been chosen for the WCL Fellowship. Both fellowships will come from the same pool of applicants, and there is no way to indicate that you prefer a six month fellowship. Rather, you must apply for a full year fellowship.
What are the Factors that the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program Selection Committee Will Consider in Choosing Fellows?
The JD Distinguished Fellowship Program Selection Committee will consider the following in rendering its decisions:
- the applicant’s demonstrated interest in the fellowship placement and the substantive legal or law-related work expected to be performed;
- how the experience will further the applicant’s career development and make the applicant a more attractive candidate to employers;
- whether the applicant has taken advantage of resources at WCL and in the greater legal community to prepare him/her to perform well as a Fellow;
- the applicant’s prior work experience such as externships and summer positions; and
- the applicant’s academic achievement in law school.
When will I Know Whether I Have Received a Fellowship?
For the clas of 2013, the program received 94 applications. The results of the selection process should be finalized, and awardees should be announced, by July 15, 2013.
I heard that Dean Grossman announced an increase in the number of fellowships offered this year. Is that true?
Yes. On May 17, 2013, Dean Grossman announced an increase in the number of WCL Fellowships that will be offered through the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program for 2013 graduates. This year, WCL is providing funding for 56 fellowships, each lasting for twelve months. Due to a generous contribution from the SBA, seven supplemental fellowships are available this year, each lasting for six months. Therefore, in total, there will be 63 JD Distinguished Fellowships available this year (56 will last twelve months and 7 will last six months). There is no guarantee that all 63 fellowships will be awarded, but rather the number awarded will depend on the strength of the applications received. Because the website, the application instructions, and the Fellowship Sponsor Certification Form were created before May 17, they all reflect the original level of funding for the program and state that only 36 WCL Fellowships will be made available this year. Applicants may submit their applications on these original documents while understanding that the program has been expanded and that a larger number of fellowships are available than originally planned.
What Are My Odds of Getting a Fellowship?
Last year, in 2012, 66 people applied for 31 fellowships. This year, there will be a total of 63 fellowships available: 56 WCL Fellowships and 7 SBA Fellowships. The Selection Committee reserves the right to reject any application which shows a lack of planning, a lack of merit, or any other deficiency.
My prospective supervisor has completed the Sponsor Certification Form and is wondering about the best way to submit it. Should they fax it separately to OCPD, or send it to me so I can include it with the rest of my application?
The Fellowship Sponsor Certification Form gives the following instructions to Fellowship Sponsors: "Please sign, date and return this form to the applicant so that it can be included in the application packet. Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, June 7, 2013. Late submissions will not be accepted; please ensure that you return this form to the applicant sufficiently in advance of the application deadline."
Therefore, you should collect the form from your Fellowship Sponsor. Once you have the form, you will include it with the rest of your materials. The application gives you the following directions: "All application materials must be scanned together and emailed as a single attachment in an email (with the subject heading “JD Distinguished Fellowship Application”) to
email@example.com by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, June 7, 2013."
I am a 2013 graduate, and I have been hired for a full time, permanent position that starts in February of 2014. Can I apply for the 6 month grant even if I already have a job lined up?
Applicants who have accepted employment offers that will begin in the future may apply for a JD Distinguished Fellowship. However, priority is given to those students who do not have any confirmed future employment. Applicants must disclose on their applications any confirmed plans for future employment. In the past, the number of qualified applicants without any confirmed future employment has outnumbered the fellowships available.
There is no separate application process for the SBA Fellowships, which last 6 months. Rather, Fellows will be selected for the SBA Fellowship after the initial 36 Fellows have been chosen for the WCL Fellowship.
Contract or temporary work might also be a way to find employment while you are waiting for your permanent job to start. To learn more, you can visit the website for the Office of Career & Professional Development. Under the "Programs and Events" tab there is a section for "Podcasts/Webcasts." Click on that link and search for the word "contract." You will find a webcast on "Everything You Need to Know About Contract Lawyering."
In addition, from the main webpage for the Office of Career & Professional Development, you can look under the "Career Counseling & Other Services" tab to find a link to "Alumni Services." When you click on that link, you will find the following information under "Legal Temporary Agencies":
"An excellent resource for temporary legal projects across many cities and states can be found at the online communityThe Posse List. For a representative listing of legal temporary agencies in DC, NY, NJ, and CT, click on this link." You will be directed to the handouts section and prompted to log in to CareerLink.
If you search the word “temporary” in the document library, you will find the listing mentioned.
How should I go about finding a Fellowship Sponsor?
Many employers are familiar with law school programs such as the JDD Program. Indeed, many employers will have hosted fellows in the past. If there is an organization that is doing work that interests you, approach the organization to inquire as to whether the organization would be interested in hosting a fellow. You can direct the organization to the JDD Program website and the Fellowship Sponsor Certification Form for more information. You may want to consider approaching organizations for which you have worked in the past as an intern or extern.
Some organizations have contacted WCL expressing interest in hosting a fellow. Those organizations, and their application criteria, are posted on CareerLink. To see a list, log on to CareerLink, go to the Jobs & internships tab, visit CSM jobs, in the keywords field type in "JD Distinguished Fellowship Sponsor" without the quotes, and select "job title" in the drop down menu. More postings will be added to CareerLink as they are received. Please check CareerLink frequently.
In addition, you should sign on to PSJD ("a unique online clearinghouse for law students and lawyers to connect with public interest job listings and career-building resources") and do an advanced search for job postings, limiting the search by choosing "FELLOWSHIP - Sponsor" as the job type. If you are signed on to the website, you can save your search by making it an alert, thereby receiving emails from PSJD whenever new postings fit your criteria. As a WCL student, you may register with PSJD for free by visiting this link.
Finally, many professors at WCL have connections to practitioners. If you are interested in a particular field of practice, you should consider having an informational interview with a WCL professor who specializes in that field. To learn more, visit the website of faculty by areas of specialization.
I Still Have Questions About the Application. Whom May I Contact?
Applicants are welcome and encouraged to contact the Office of Career & Professional Development with any questions. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with detailed questions. Your message will be directed to the appropriate administrator for a response.
In addition, you may meet with a career counselor in the Office of Career & Professional Development to review your application. Please access your CareerLink account and click on “Request an Appointment” on the right side of the page. This will show you the names of counselors available to help you with your JD Distinguished Fellowship Program application.