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Summer Fellowship Program

The Summer Fellowship Program

As MJF’s oldest program, the Summer Fellowship Program provides funds for Minnesota law students to work as summer fellows at public interest and poverty law offices.

MJF’s Summer Fellowship Program makes it possible for up to 20 law students each summer to work with legal aid offices and other public interest organizations serving low-income and under-represented Minnesotans. Participating law students help legal aid and volunteer lawyers serve eligible clients, including many who, because of program overload and lack of case priority, otherwise could not be served. The law students learn about the legal needs of eligible clients, develop the skills required to address those needs, and gain the legal experience they will need to perform pro bono legal work after they leave law school.

Program Specifics and Selection

Since 1983, MJF has sponsored and funded law student summer fellowships with legal aid offices and public interest organizations in Minnesota. MJF fellows offer the agencies they serve intensive help with casework, research, and legal writing. Fellows work at the direction and under the supervision of the agencies’ own lawyers. Each fellow works a minimum of 400 hours (ten 40-hour weeks). MJF fellowships are open to all law student members. The fellowship agencies choose their own fellows by screening resumes and cover letters, conducting on-campus interviews, and reviewing optional additional information, such as writing samples and volunteer activity sheets.

MJF selects fellowship agency hosts based upon a variety of factors, including: rankings by students, client populations served, issues addressed, activities assigned to fellows, the agency’s need for a fellow, past experiences of MJF fellows at that agency, the number of fellows and clerks at an agency, and interests of MJF’s membership in serving a particular agency. Last year, law firms, bar associations, legal services agencies, corporations, and community foundations generously contributed to support the Summer Fellowship Program.

The Work

MJF summer fellows provide their agency placements with intensive help with casework, research, and legal writing, working on a broad range of legal issues, including family, consumer, housing, immigration, and environmental law areas. In the past, fellows have performed legal research and case assistance on issues ranging from unlawful detainer actions to employment and housing discrimination matters brought on behalf of migrant farm workers. In addition, students often assist with complicated child custody cases involving abuse. As a result of this program, each MJF fellow helps her/his agency serve an average of 50 clients who could not have been served otherwise.

Lasting Impact

The long-term impact of these summer jobs on the fellows themselves, on the legal community and on the community at large is significant. The MJF summer fellowship experiences gives students the opportunity and the knowledge to consider public interest law as a career, or to commit to pro bono advocacy as a private attorney. Past MJF fellows who enter private practice carry with them a firsthand appreciation for the importance of legal services and public interest law. In addition, students will be exposed to under-served people and new geographic locations, all of which may affect their career choices. Many of MJF’s summer fellows return to rural and minority communities to practice law and continue to provide necessary legal services for low income persons in Minnesota. Summer fellowships assist law students with developing the legal skills necessary to perform pro bono work after graduation. Our communities derive direct and consequential benefits from these fellowships. Law students serve the community for the summer, and as lawyers, are more likely to serve in law-related capacities throughout their careers. The program educates future lawyers about significant issues in areas of poverty law while giving them the exposure to the larger picture, and the tools to help solve these problems.

Thank you to the agencies that are hosting fellows during Summer 2020: 

10th Judicial District Public Defender’s Office
American Civil Liberties Union
Central Minnesota Legal Services
Children’s Law Center
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid – Family Law Division
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid Housing Division
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid Disability Law Center
Appellate PD- Appellate Public Defender
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Economic Justice Division
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Housing Division
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services – Immigration
Anishinabe Legal Services (Cass Lake)
Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota (Duluth)
Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota (Alexandria, Moorhead or Bemidji – fellow’s choice)
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services – Mankato (Mankato)
Legal Assistance of Olmsted County (Rochester)

For Attorneys

Visit Host a Summer Fellowship for more information on applying to work with an MJF Summer Fellow.

For Students
Check out Become a Summer Fellow for more information on applying for a Summer Fellowship position.