The Robert F. Kennedy '51 Public Service Fellowships enable new J.D. graduates to start their careers as public service attorneys. The fellowships, created in 2007, 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 $40,000 salary to Virginia Law graduates working for a year in qualifying public service employment. Fellows are also eligible to participate in the Virginia Loan Forgiveness Program.
Robert F. Kennedy Fellows work in legal aid offices, prosecutors’ and public defenders’ offices, government agencies and nonprofit organizations across the country. Alumni have obtained permanent positions immediately after their fellowships with employers such as the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, The Bronx Defenders, District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office, National Labor Relations Board, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Poverty and Race Research Action Council, Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office, Southern Environmental Law Center, and various U.S. Senate and House committees.
Third-year students who have not yet accepted other postgraduate employment may apply for the fellowship in early February. Fellows are selected through a competitive process that considers the student’s interest in a public service practice, how his or her proposal for the fellowship would facilitate that interest or practice, and the benefits to the public that would be achieved by awarding the fellowship. Students interested in learning more about the fellowship should contact the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center.
This list includes representative current and recent fellowship employers.
- Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office (Alexandria, Virginia)
- Alexandria Public Defender Office (Alexandria, Virginia)
- American Cancer Society (Atlanta, Georgia.)
- Blue Ridge Legal Services (Harrisonburg, Virginia)
- Bronx Defenders (New York, New York)
- California Attorney General (San Francisco, California)
- Capital Defender for Northern Virginia (Arlington, Virginia)
- Central Virginia Legal Aid (Charlottesville, Virginia)
- Community Legal Services (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
- Cook County Public Defender (Chicago, Illinois)
- D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence (Washington, D.C.)
- EarthRights International (Washington, D.C.)
- Environmental Law Institute (Washington, D.C.)
- Fairfax County Attorney (Fairfax, Virginia)
- Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (Washington, D.C.)
- Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria, Virginia)
- Harris County District Attorney (Houston, Texas)
- Henrico County Attorney's Office (Henrico, Virginia)
- Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (St. Paul, Minnesota)
- Just Neighbors (Washington, D.C.)
- Kings County District Attorney’s Office (New York, New York)
- Lambda Legal (New York, New York)
- Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights in the Bay Area (San Francisco, California)
- Legal Aid Justice Center (Falls Church, Virginia)
- Legal Services of Northern Virginia (Fairfax, Virginia)
- Los Angeles County Public Defender (Los Angeles, California)
- Manhattan Legal Services (New York, New York)
- National Labor Relations Board (Brooklyn, New York)
- New York City Law Department (New York, New York)
- New York Legal Assistance Group (New York, New York)
- New York State Banking Department (New York, New York)
- Philadelphia Law Department (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
- Public Patent Foundation (New York, New York)
- Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office (Richmond, Virginia)
- Section 27 (Johannesburg, South Africa)
- Sexual Violence Law Center/Legal Voice (Seattle, Washington)
- Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression (Charlottesville, Virginia)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (Washington, D.C.)
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Richmond, Virginia)
- 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, Virginia)
- Virginia Attorney General (Richmond, Virginia)
- Washington, D.C., Attorney General (Washington, D.C.)
- Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (Washington, D.C.)
- Women’s Justice Initiative (Antigua, Guatemala)
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."