Chayes International Public Service Fellowship: Frequently Asked Questions



Who is eligible for the Chayes Fellowship?

Chayes Fellowships are awarded to HLS J.D. students who have completed at least one year of law school by the coming summer and to in-residence HLS S.J.D. students.

What type of projects fit within the Chayes Fellowship?

The Fellowships are intended to support law-related public service work in non-profit or governmental organizations concerned with issues of an international scope or relevant to countries in transition. Chayes Fellows' projects can take a variety of forms, but could focus on development of legal, political, social and economic institutions, constitutional and legal issues in emerging democracies, or reconstruction of war-torn societies, among others. Summaries of past projects and a list of past Fellows and placements are available here.

What should I consider when choosing a placement?

While summer placements must fit within the Chayes program mandate, there is a wide range of differences among organizations and the type of summer work experiences they offer. In selecting a placement organization, students should carefully consider a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

Goals and objectives. Students should evaluate both their academic and career interests, and think about how their summer work might fit in relation to their objectives. Some issues students might consider include desire to gain expertise / experience in a particular country or region, whether they will have the opportunity to create a work product, what type of networking opportunities the internship might provide, whether they are interested in improving foreign language proficiency, what type of professional experience they might gain (i.e., will the work be relevant to, or help further, their career interests, and in what way will it do so), etc.

Students should also consider the type of work in which they are interested and how it relates to their academic and career goals. Some organizations might require a significant amount of field work, while others might involve research and writing in an office. Certain projects may involve working directly with clients, while others may be entirely computer- or text-based research. The size of an organization may affect the type of work available (e.g., large multinational organizations might provide opportunities to work on large-scale policy issues, while small NGOs might provide more hands-on, grassroots projects with direct client interactions). Students should actively communicate with the organization to make sure they have a clear understanding of the type of roles and responsibilities they will be assigned. While organizations often provide general information about their mission and activities, students should find out as much as possible about an organization’s day-to-day operations to have a better idea of what they can expect and whether the organization is an appropriate fit.

Working environment. Given the vast range of differences relating to institutional culture and structure among organizations, students should think about which type of working environment would be the most appropriate fit with their interests and preferences. Factors to consider might include the number of people in the office and their positions (e.g., are there any attorneys? other interns?); the level of formality expected (e.g., what attire is appropriate?); whether work is done collaboratively or individually (and to what extent); whether the office is located in an urban or rural setting; the condition of the country’s infrastructure and how that might affect daily work (e.g., power outages, transportation, health and safety, etc.). Students should also find out what to expect regarding the type of supervision / mentoring they will receive (e.g., how easily accessible is the supervisor, will s/he be in the office regularly, etc.).

In addition to an organization’s institutional culture, students should seek out information about a country’s social and cultural norms, including gender roles, so that students know what might be expected and can prepare accordingly.

Skills required. Students are sometimes surprised at the high level and amount of responsibilities that organizations assign them. While many students welcome such challenges, it is important to find out what organizations expect so that students, when possible, can prepare in advance so that the summer is challenging but not overwhelming. Students considering work at an organization that requires foreign language proficiency should clarify with the organization what level of proficiency is required and how much of the work will be in the foreign language. Previous students have found it helpful to ask for very specific information regarding exactly what type of work they will be capable of doing considering their level of proficiency, and how their level of proficiency might affect other aspects of their work, such as interactions with co-workers, etc. While working for an organization that requires foreign language proficiency can be an effective way to improve language skills, students should be realistic in their assessment of their language ability.

To gain a better sense of the differences among organizations, students should actively seek out information, including contacting the organization (students should make sure to consider the quality and specificity of the information they receive prior to the summer), reviewing HLS student evaluations (available in the OPIA online job search database; Chayes program-specific evaluations are available upon request from the Chayes Program – see contact information below), speaking with students who have worked for the organization (see list of past Chayes Fellows and placements), speaking with students who are from the relevant country (e.g., HLS Graduate Program students; a copy of the Graduate Program participant directory is available in the OPIA office), consultations with OPIA or Chayes Program staff, etc.

What are the resources available for finding an organization that fits within the Chayes Fellowship framework?

The Chayes Fellowship program provides a regularly updated list of pre-approved placement organizations that are interested in hosting for the summer a Chayes Fellow whose interests and skills match the needs of the organization. These organizations are screened to ensure that the proposed placement meets the Chayes Program's requirements.

The Chayes Fellowship program also maintains a list of organizations that have served as Chayes placements in previous years, or have been suggested as organizations that would meet the criteria for a Chayes placement, that have not completed paperwork this year.

There are also many members of the HLS community who can serve as invaluable resources for students planning international public interest work. OPIA advisors, former Chayes Fellows and other JD students who have spent a summer abroad, as well as LLM and SJD students who come from other countries, can provide information about specific organizations and the social and legal cultures in other countries. Faculty members and staff of HLS research centers and programs can also serve as useful resources.

Can I apply to organizations not listed as pre-approved on the Chayes Fellowship website?

Yes, provided that the organization fits within the Chayes framework. Students interested in working with organizations not on the roster of authorized placements are encouraged to inquire with OPIA or the Chayes Fellowship Program about whether an organization is likely to be approved as a Chayes Fellowship placement site. More information on getting placement organizations approved is available here.

Can I apply to work with more than one organization?

Yes, students are encouraged to apply to a number of organizations and it can take time to secure an appropriate international placement. If students have applied to a number of organizations when they prepare the Chayes application, and have not yet settled on one (which is perfectly fine, by the way!), they should indicate where they have applied and their preferences.

Can Chayes Fellows work for US-based organizations?

On rare occasion, a student receives permission to work for a US-based organization if it is international in scope. For example, former Chayes Fellows have worked for the World Bank in Washington, DC and the United Nations in New York. In general, though, the program is designed to support students spending the summer abroad. (Chayes Fellows who spend the summer in the US do not receive a stipend above the standard amount for Summer Public Interest Funding.)

What is the process for getting a placement organization approved?

The Chayes program maintains a list of pre-approved placement organizations. Students who are interested in working with organizations that are not on the roster of authorized placements may seek to have a placement organization approved. To do so, the student must first provide the proposed organization with the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship Information Sheet for Placement Organizations to ensure that the organization understands and is prepared to meet its responsibilities.

Second, the student should ask his/her contact at the placement organization to fully complete the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship Placement Form. While we recognize that projects evolve over time and it can be difficult to specify early on exactly what a Fellow will work on during the summer, it is important that this form contain as much detail as possible. In particular, the Fellow must have one or more designated projects; a description along the lines of “assisting with the general work of the organization,” or a lengthy description of a large organizational project noting that the HLS student will be responsible for “assisting the coordinators” is not adequate. Students should encourage the organization to focus on the student’s role within a particular project(s) and to provide details about the type of work in which they anticipate the student will be engaged. At minimum, the “Description of Proposed Project for Chayes Fellow” section of the placement form should include: 1) a brief overview of the project; 2) an explanation of the Chayes Fellow’s role in the project; and 3) a description of the specific responsibilities and duties that the Chayes Fellow will be assigned.

Please be advised that the submission of a completed placement form is not, in itself, sufficient to gain approval for a placement. Nor is it a given that an organization that has been approved in past years will be approved every summer. Once the placement form is submitted, it is reviewed by the Chayes Fellowship program to ensure that (a) the organization falls within the program’s parameters and (b) the proposed project is substantive and appropriate for a law school student. In some cases the Chayes committee will have questions or require further information and may contact the student and/or placement organization. As noted previously, organizations are more likely to receive pre-approval as potential Chayes placements when they have articulated details of the role and responsibilities they anticipate a Fellow will be assigned as part of projects that fall within the Chayes mandate. The process of getting approval for Chayes placement organizations is not excessively complicated but is quite valuable in ensuring that Chayes Fellows have the best possible summer experience.

Once a student has received approval for a placement organization s/he must also obtain a letter confirming the offer for the summer.

What if I haven't secured a placement by the Chayes Fellowship application deadline?

Placement organizations are sometimes not as responsive as students hope and therefore we encourage students to begin seeking a placement as early as possible, and follow up with e-mail and fax correspondence and phone calls when necessary. Although it is not required to have a specific placement secured until March 31, 2013, students should have been in contact with possible placement organizations by the time the Chayes Fellowship Program holds interviews with applicants in February 2013.

What happens if I am offered a position with a pre-approved Chayes organization but am not selected as a Chayes Fellow?

Students who are offered positions with approved Chayes organizations are welcome to work for those organizations if offered a position, provided that the organization does not condition the position upon participation in the Chayes Program. Students who receive Summer Public Interest Funding may use it to defray the cost of their summer travel and living expenses for work with approved Chayes organizations.

What if I am selected as a Chayes Fellow but the Chayes Program does not subsequently approve the organization?

Participation in the Chayes Fellowship Program requires spending the summer at an approved Chayes placement organization. Staff of the Chayes Program will work with students to ensure that they find placements that are consistent with their needs and skills, and fall within the parameters of the Fellowship Program.

What is the difference between the Chayes Fellowship and the HRP summer internship program?

Students should be aware that while there is some similarity to Harvard’s Human Rights Program (HRP) Summer Internship there is an important distinction between the two programs. In contrast to HRP, the Chayes Fellowship tends to support students seeking human rights-focused placements primarily in post-conflict societies. In general, the Chayes Fellowship is awarded to students who will be working in societies in development or transition, or on related issues. 

The Chayes Fellowship and the Human Rights Internship share a common application form, but the programs follow separate application processes. Students who are interested in placement organizations that could be sponsored by either the Chayes Program or HRP should apply to both programs directly. Any questions about which organizations are better suited for which fellowship program should be referred to staff at HRP or Chayes. 

Whenever possible, the Chayes Program and HRP staff will make efforts to coordinate and ensure that students apply to and receive fellowships through the appropriate program. In cases in which a student’s placement would be appropriate for both programs, Chayes and HRP staff will take into consideration overall program balance and distribution of students and placements. If a student applies to, and is selected by, both programs, s/he will be notified, no later than March 31, as to which program will be administering his/her fellowship. Application and notification deadlines are the same for both programs, as are stipend amounts.

Can I split my summer between two organizations or work as a Chayes Fellow for less than 8 weeks?

The Chayes Fellowship Program does not permit Fellows to split the summer between two organizations unless the work is part of a comprehensive and coordinated project. However, Fellows are welcome to spend 8 weeks at one organization and work additional time elsewhere. This requirement is in place for two reasons. First, 8 weeks is needed for a student to maximize his/her involvement in an organization and engagement in substantive work. Second, 8 weeks is the minimum time period required for HLS students to receive stipends through the Summer Public Interest Funding program.

Can I obtain class credit as part of the summer internship?

Chayes Fellows cannot receive class credit for undertaking their summer internship. However, it is possible for students to fulfill the HLS pro bono work requirements through summer placements.

Who manages the Chayes Fellowship and where should I go for questions?

The International Legal Studies Office (ILS) manages the Chayes Fellowship. Staff members at the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising and ILS are available to discuss potential placement organizations and make recommendations to interested students. Also, former Chayes Fellows can serve as a resource.

Please feel free to contact the following individuals with any questions regarding the Chayes program:

Sara Zucker
Director of International Legal Studies Programs
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5005
Harvard Law School
tel: (617) 495-9030
fax: (617) 496-9179
or just come by Wasserstein 5005 during Sara’s office hours:
Tuesdays 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Thursdays 3:30 - 5:00 p.m.

back to top

Last modified: May 28, 2015

© 2015 The President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.