Frequently Asked Questions

 

For Applicants

 

What Kind of Fellowship Sponsor Qualifies?

The Fellowship Sponsor may be a for-profit or non-profit organization and it may be located in the United States or abroad.  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 2014. Can I Apply?

No. You must be a JD graduate from the WCL Class of 2014 (meaning that you graduated or will graduate in December 2013, May 2014, or August 2014) in order to apply in 2014.

 

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 Career and Professional Development at careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu 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. 

 

Are There Any Reporting Requirements of the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program?

Yes.  Fellows agree that they will respond in a timely manner to all requests from the Finance Office, OCPD, and any other WCL office regarding their fellowships and careers, including but not limited to surveys about the fellowship experience, updates on the progress of their job search, and surveys about post-graduate employment outcomes.

 

Is There a Cost of Living Adjustment For Geographic Location?

There will not be any “cost of living” adjustments based on geographic location.

 

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.

 

What is Considered “Substantive Legal 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 career advancement in a meaningful and substantive way. There is no requirement that the applicant be “practicing law,” per se. However, 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 Graduating from the WCL JD Program But Also Pursuing a WCL LLM Degree?

WCL offers three options for 2014 WCL JD graduates who are interested in pursuing a WCL LLM degree immediately after graduation: (1) a 25% tuition reduction coupled with a $12,150 Graduate Legal Fellowship; (2) a 50% tuition reduction; or (3) no tuition reduction for those graduates who are participating in the JDD Program.

1. 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 $12,150 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.

2. 50% Tuition Reduction

WCL will offer a 50% discounted tuition for 2014 JD graduates who wish to pursue an LLM degree at WCL in the Fall 2014 or Spring 2015. Graduates who elect to pursue the 50% LLM tuition discount are not eligible for the JDD Program or for the Graduate Legal Fellowship.

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 and all Fellowship applications are considered anonymously by the Committee. 

 

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 competitive candidate in the legal marketplace;
  • 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?

Decisions should be announced by June 2014.

 

What Are My Odds of Getting a Fellowship?

Last year, in 2013, 99 people applied for 63 fellowships. 

 

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 eligible to participate in the PILRAP program if your Fellowship Sponsor is a an organization qualifying for tax exemption under IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or 501(c)(5), or is a local, state or federal government agency or office. 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 theIncome-Based Repayment Planor thePay 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 because your monthly obligation may be zero. Keep in mind that many servicers/lenders only require that you report changes in your income to them 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 thePILRAP websiteto learn more.

 

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, your employment will 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 thePublic Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

At the end of your JD Distinguished Fellowship, you will want to turn in anEmployment Certification Formto the Department of Education in order to log the months that you worked toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You should turn in this form at the end of your fellowship, rather than before that time, because you can only get credit for the time already worked. The employer (Public Service Organization) is American University. Please contact Tino Flecther (tfletch@wcl.american.edu) in the Finance Office at WCL so that he can connect you with the appropriate person on main campus to fill out the form for you.

 

I graduated from WCL in the spring of 2013 and then completed the MA portion of my JD/MA at the School of International Service in the fall, graduating in December of 2013. Am I eligible to apply for a JD Distinguished Fellowship with others from the class of 2014?

No, you are not eligible. You would have been eligible to apply for a JD Distinguished Fellowship in the spring of 2013 when you finished your Juris Doctor degree. Joint degree students may work as fellows while completing their MA degrees.

 

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 2013, due to differences in the academic calendars between the two schools, I didn't finish my Master II at Nanterre until November, 2013. Am I eligible to apply for a JD Distinguished Fellowship with others from the class of 2014?

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, 2013.

 

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 Sponsors. 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.

 

Can I start my fellowship in November?

A Fellow must work during the defined fellowship term: September 2, 2014 through September 4, 2015. A Fellow cannot start after September 2, 2014. 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.

 

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.

The Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) has created a list of employers who have hosted JD Distinguished Fellows in the past or have expressed interest in hosting a JD Distinguished Fellow in the future. To locate the list of past and future Fellowship Sponsors for the JDD program, please log into CareerLink. On the top bar, please select “Resources” and then “Document Library”. Under Keyword, search for “JDDF”. The PDF of employers should become available.

In addition, you should sign on to PSJD ("a unique online clearinghouse for law students and lawyers to connect with public interestjob listingsand 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 thislink.

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 offaculty by areas of specialization.

 

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. EST on Friday, May 16, 2014.  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 careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu by 5:00 p.m. EST on Friday, May 16, 2014."

 

I am a 2014 graduate, and I have been hired for a full time, permanent position that starts in February of 2015. 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.

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 community The 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.

 

The Application Form asks me to certify that I have completed the WCL Graduation Survey, located on CareerLink. How do I do that?

The Graduation Survey has not yet been released. Once the survey is released in late April, you will find instructions on how to fill out the survey here in the Frequently Asked Questions for the JDD Program. In order to be eligible for the JDD Program, you must complete the Graduation Survey by May 16, 2014. 

 

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 careerdevelopment@wcl.american.eduwith 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.

For Particpants

 

What happens if I must take a sick day?

You should speak to your Fellowship Sponsor regarding its sick leave policy for unpaid interns and volunteer attorneys. With regard to the rules of the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program, you may take as many sick days during the course of the year as would be awarded to a new attorney at your Fellowship Sponsor during that attorney’s first year. You must contact the Office of Career and Professional Development at careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu if you have been on sick leave without working for more than five consecutive business days.

 

What happens if I want to take vacation leave?

You should speak to your Fellowship Sponsor regarding its vacation leave policy for unpaid interns and volunteer attorneys. With regard to the rules of the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program, you may take as many vacation days during the course of the year as would be awarded to a new attorney at your Fellowship Sponsor during that attorney’s first year. You must contact the Office of Career and Professional Development at careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu if you plan to take a vacation that will result in your missing work for more than five consecutive business days.

 

What happens if my Fellowship Sponsor is closed due to a holiday or inclement weather?

You are not expected to work the days on which your Fellowship Sponsor is closed, whether because of a holiday or because of inclement weather.

 

What should I do if I am facing challenges in my fellowship?

If you are facing challenges in your Fellowship, you should contact the Office of Career and Professional Development at careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu. Program administrators from the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program can advise you on ways to try to improve your placement. When appropriate, program administrators from the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program can work with your Fellowship Sponsor to try to address any problems that exist. Although you are expected to stay with the same Fellowship Sponsor throughout the full term of the fellowship, there are instances in which you will be permitted to change sponsors while continuing your fellowship.  However, such a change may only occur after working with the program administrators from the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program to try to salvage your placement and after having received permission from the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program Selection Committee to move your fellowship to a new sponsor.

 

My fellowship is coming to an end. What can I do to get an extension of my fellowship term? 

Unfortunately, the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program does not have additional funding for extending the term of any fellowships. For guidance on other sources of funding, visit the webpage of the Office of Public Interest at the following URL:

http://www.wcl.american.edu/publicinterest/postgradfunding.cfm

That page will direct you to some of the tools that are available through the Office of Sponsored Programs. To better understand those tools, you can review the user’s guides at the following URL: http://www.infoed.org/spinquickref/quickcard2up.pdf

The Office of Grants and Programs sometimes holds trainings on how to use these resources.

Some of the funding sources will be for organizations, not individuals. However, you might consider writing a grant proposal for your Fellowship Sponsor. The development department at your sponsor can advise you on whether there are any grants of interest to your sponsor or whether your sponsor is an appropriate applicant for specific grants.

Finally, the Pence Law Library also has a page related to grants and funding. It can be found at the following URL:

http://wcl.american.libguides.com/grants

 

I have secured permanent, full-time employment. What do I need to do in order to end my fellowship?

First, be sure to give your Fellowship Sponsor as much notice as possible (at least two weeks) of the fact that you are leaving. Work with your Fellowship Sponsor to ensure that you have completed all assignments or that you have identified someone to whom you can transfer an unfinished assignment (when appropriate, make sure to create a transfer memo when transferring an assignment). Contact the Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) at careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu to inform the program administrators from the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program that you have found permanent, full-time employment.  Then, a representative from OCPD will contact you to get more information about your employment. Fellows who secure permanent, full-time employment before their term expires will forego any future payments but will not be required to return any of the funding already received.  Once you have responded to OCPD’s request for information and worked your last day, you need to ensure you have complied with all remaining reporting requirements.

 

Are There Any Reporting Requirements of the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program?

Yes.  Fellows agree that they will respond in a timely manner to all requests from the Finance Office, OCPD, and any other WCL office regarding their fellowships and careers, including but not limited to surveys about the fellowship experience, updates on the progress of their job search, and surveys about post-graduate employment outcomes.

 

I still have questions about my fellowship.  Whom may I contact?

Fellows are welcome and encouraged to contact the Office of Career and Professional Development at careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu.