Public Service Venture Fund



Creating more opportunities for careers in public service by investing in entrepreneurial lawyers with a passion for social and economic justice.

Inspired by Harvard Law School alumni who have used their degrees and experience to pursue innovative methods of social change, the Public Service Venture Fund will award up to $1 million in grants every year to Harvard Law graduates pursuing careers in public service. 

The first program of its kind at a law school, the fund offers "seed money" for startup nonprofit ventures to students and alumni and salary support to graduating J.D. students and judicial law clerks for postgraduate work at nonprofit or government agencies in the United States and abroad. 


You have the opportunity for Harvard Law School to launch the career of your dreams. 

To obtain support from the fund, Harvard Law School applicants will submit proposals explaining how the postgraduate grants will help them get started in public service. The fund will support the creativity of Harvard Law students and graduates seeking innovative ways to make a difference. 



Harvard Law School will provide funding for any project that is in an early stage, innovative (does not duplicate effective existing services), sustainable (will attract further funding or be able to generate its own funds), and furthers social justice. The projects are not required to be law-related, and they may be based anywhere in the world.  Seed grant organizations must be (501)(c)(3)s during the two years they are funded by the Harvard Law School Public Service Venture Fund but may convert to another form once no longer receiving Harvard Law School funding. Any Harvard Law School 3Ls or alumni may apply to the Venture Fund for a Seed Grant to start a new nonprofit or to support one provided that the proposed organization is in its initial stages and has few available funding sources.  

There will be a preference for funding graduating students and alumni at the early stages of their careers, but any alumni who might otherwise have difficulty accessing early-stage funding will be eligible.  Seed grants are restricted to candidates who hold a J.D. from Harvard Law School. There is no set number of Seed Grant awards: two grants were awarded in the first year of the fund and three in the second year.  Seed grant projects will receive $80,000 per year, with the expectation of renewal for a second year.

Applications by students and alumni for the Seed Grants are due to the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising by October 23rd, 2014 and final decisions will be announced in mid-March.


Harvard Law School provides a number of fully-funded fellowships to support one year of work by a graduating HLS student or outgoing judicial law clerk at a host organization. These fellowships include the Public Service Venture Fund (PSVF), the Kaufman Fellowship, the Skirnick Fellowship, and the One Day’s Work Fellowship; all are administered by the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising and share the same parameters.

These fellowships help launch the careers of Harvard Law School students pursuing a career in public interest/public service.  At the same time, they provide under-funded nonprofits and government agencies with low cost and talented labor to the benefit of the host organizations’ communities, clients and causes.  

Fortunately, most HLS students and graduates continue to land external fellowships and full-time positions in a very competitive climate. However, because there are so many talented and committed students seeking public interest/government work at a time when there are not enough job openings, this fund is meant to create new openings. The HLS fellowships are thus designed to augment, rather than replace, the external job and fellowship opportunities available to HLS students and graduates. Further, it is the intention of the fund that the fellowship year will help students secure a post-fellowship position either at the host organization or within the general field and location of the host organization.  The rules and guidelines for both students and employers have been designed to reflect these goals.  

Although the number of fellowship awards varies from year to year, between 15 and 20 fully-funded ($45,000) fellowships are typically awarded.

Graduating HLS JD students are eligible for all fellowships; HLS JD graduates who apply from clerkships that they have entered immediately after graduation are also eligible for the majority of the fellowships, while all other JD alumni are only eligible to apply for the Seed Grant.   LLM and SJD students are eligible only for the Kaufman Fellowships (typically 3 – 4 recipients per year).  

The HLS fellowships are competitive.  Recipients are selected by a committee of HLS faculty and staff based on their potential for an outstanding career in public interest.  Applications by students and clerks for the Organization-Based Fellowships, including the Letter of Sponsorship from the organization (see “Apply”), are due to the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising by March 2nd, 2015 and decisions will be announced in May.  

Learn more about ways to 
make a gift to support the 
Public Service Venture Fund.

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Last modified: July 28, 2014

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