A Foot in the Door

“I approached the chief of staff at the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with information about the Kennedy Fellowships when I was a 3L. I hoped the fellowship was the chance to get my foot in the door, gain experience as a government attorney, and acquire skills I would carry with me to future jobs,” Cassandra Maximous ’13 said. “A few months into my fellowship, I had the confidence to ask about staying with ICE after the fellowship ended. I was offered the position. This would not have been possible in 2013 without the Kennedy Fellowship. Due to the federal hiring freeze, entry-level positions were very limited.”

Maximous is now an associate legal advisor with the office. “While a resume can state past experience and accomplishments, nothing compares to showing your future employer how qualified for the job you are,” she said. “I am blessed and lucky to have been able to translate my fellowship into a full-time federal position and am grateful to the Law School for providing the opportunity.”


Brian Daner, who graduated from UVA Law in 2011, had a fellowship with the U.S. House Committee on Oversight before being hired as full-time counsel in June 2012.

"The Hill is a very insular world," Daner said. "Most of the time the only way you can get a job here is if you know someone, and I didn't know anyone on the Hill. So the fellowship gave me the opportunity to get my foot in the door and prove myself.

"In public service, the resources are just so limited, whether it be in a prosecutor's office, a public defender's office or a nongovernmental organization," he added. "They all have the same issue as a congressional committee, which is that they don't have the resources to bring in everyone who wants to be a part of it, so it's very competitive. Having a chance to prove yourself is where it can really make a difference."

Robert F. Kennedy ’51 Public Service Fellowships

The Robert F. Kennedy '51 Public Service Fellowships enable recent J.D. graduates to work in public service positions while exploring career options and building a professional network. The fellowships are named after the late Senator and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, one of the most famous public servants to graduate from Virginia Law. Funded by alumni and friends of the Law School, the fellowships provide a salary to graduates working for a year in qualifying public service employment. For the Class of 2014, the salary is $31,500. Fellows also receive a stipend to help pay for bar exam and bar review expenses.

Fellows work in legal aid offices, prosecutors’ and public defenders’ offices, federal agencies, courts and nonprofit organizations across the country (More). The Law School provides ongoing career counseling aimed at securing post-fellowship employment tailored to each graduate’s career objectives.

Graduates participate in the fellowship program for a variety of reasons — for example, some are seeking employment in fields that require additional experience beyond law school, while others are entering careers in which employers make hiring decisions only after the graduate has gained admission to the bar. Although the program was created in 2007, prior to the current recession, it has also helped recent graduates whose job searches have taken longer than expected.

Many former fellows have obtained post-fellowship employment in the same public service organization where they were employed during their fellowships. Others have gone on to work for law firms, government agencies, public interest organizations, corporations and courts, as well as prosecutors’ and public defenders’ offices.

Students and graduates interested in the fellowship should contact the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center or the Career Services Office.

Kim"In an era of limited funding for government and public service work, aspiring attorneys need a way to prove they can do the job," says Assistant Dean for Public Annie Kim. "The Kennedy Fellowship gives them that chance. Graduates have the opportunity to demonstrate their value to an organization for which they would like to work, and the time and space to grow as new attorneys."  

Fellowship Employers

This list includes representative current and recent fellowship employers.

Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office (Alexandria, Va.)
Alexandria Public Defender Office (Alexandria, Va.)
American Cancer Society (Atlanta, Ga.)
Blue Ridge Legal Services (Harrisonburg, Va.)
California Attorney General (San Francisco, Calif.)
Capital Defender for Northern Virginia (Arlington, Va.)
Central Jersey Legal Services (Brunswick, N.J.)
Central Virginia Legal Aid (Charlottesville, Va.)
Clerkships in federal and state appellate and trial courts
Community Legal Services (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Cook County Public Defender (Chicago, Ill.)
D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence (Washington, D.C.)
EarthRights International (Washington, D.C.)
Environmental Law Institute (Washington, D.C.)
Fairfax County Attorney (Fairfax, Va.)
Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (Washington, D.C.)
Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria, Va.)
Harris County District Attorney (Houston, Texas)
Henrico County Attorney's Office (Henrico, Va.)
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (St. Paul, Minn.)
Just Neighbors (Washington, D.C.)
Lambda Legal (New York, N.Y.)
The Lawyers Alliance for New York (New York, N.Y.)
Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights in the Bay Area (San Francisco, Calif.)
Legal Aid Justice Center (Falls Church, Va.)
Legal Services of Northern Virginia (Fairfax, Va.)
Los Angeles County Public Defender (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Manhattan Legal Services (New York, N.Y.)
Montgomery County State’s Attorney (Rockville, Md.)
National Labor Relations Board (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
New York City Law Department (New York, N.Y.)
New York State Banking Department (New York, N.Y.)
Philadelphia Law Department (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Public Patent Foundation (New York, N.Y.)
Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office (Richmond, Va.)
Section 27 (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Sexual Violence Law Center/Legal Voice (Seattle, Wash.)
Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression (Charlottesville, Va.)
Trout Unlimited (Arlington, Va.)
U.S. Department of Labor, Administrative Review Board (Washington, D.C.)
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Richmond, Va.)
U.S. Federal Communications Commission (Washington, D.C.)
U.S. House and Senate committees, subcommittees and congressional members'
    offices (Washington D.C.)
Virginia ACLU (Richmond, Va.)
Virginia Attorney General (Richmond, Va.)
Virginia Supreme Court (Richmond, Va.)
Washington, D.C., Attorney General (Washington, D.C.)
World Health Organization (Geneva, Switzerland)