Thirty-eight graduating students and recent alumni will jump-start their careers in public service with fellowships awarded by Yale Law School, according to an announcement last week.
The fellowships are intended to provide financial assistance to students who wish to use their law degrees for public interest fields. These include the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights and the Heyman Federal Public Service Fellowship.
Philipp Kotlaba LAW ’15, an awardee this year, said these fellowships financially assist students going into public interest fields or their potential employers, who may not be in a position to make a new hire without financial assistance. Recipients of the fellowships this year included members of every graduating class going back to the class of 2011. Kotlaba said he believes the fellowships open important opportunities for YLS students.
“These fellowships are designed to empower students to pursue various lines of legal work,” he said. “[They are] YLS saying we’re serious about students pursuing their vision of justice.”
Kotlaba said most of the fellowships sponsor student work in one of three areas: impact litigation, high-level policy drafting and legal services for disadvantaged people. Kotlaba said that through his fellowship he will be able to work at the Permanent Court of Arbitration. From there, he plans to begin a career in international arbitration, which is a field he has pursued mainly in his summer work while enrolled at Yale.
Ruth Swift LAW ’15, who was awarded the one-year Arthur Liman Fellowship, said she will be working for a public defender in Birmingham, Alabama, helping to reach resolutions for criminal cases that are impacting immigrants’ legal statuses. Swift said she first contacted the Birmingham public defender, and they then applied jointly for funding from the law school. Though Swift was confident that she would receive the funding, she said the process was stressful, mainly because the application was rather extensive and due the day before the start of her final exams in December. Though Swift said there is approximately the same supply of these fellowships as there is demand for them, there is still no guarantee that a given student’s application will be successful.
Joshua Andresen LAW ’15, who is a recipient of the Robina Fellowship for students interested in human rights, said that once he found a position, filing the application through YLS was relatively painless. However, because there is no guarantee made to students about funding and applications are reviewed blindly by faculty members, he said, he was still aware of the competitive nature of the process.
Law school professor Daniel Esty LAW ’86, who sits on the faculty review committee for the fellowship applications, said that after students submitted their applications in December, his committee reviewed them in January or February and looked for who had made the best argument in support of their funding. Though he does not know the total number of students who applied for fellowships, he said the process this year was very competitive.
“The people selected were truly fabulous, and we could have given [the fellowships] out to many great candidates,” he said.