The Philadelphia Public Interest Fellowship Program

Private Lawyers in Public Service Providing Equal Access to Justice

The Philadelphia Public Interest Fellowship Program is a unique partnership between the private and public interest legal communities. It was developed in 1992 by the Public Interest Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association and received the strong endorsement of the Board of Governors.

The Philadelphia Public Interest Fellowship provides an extraordinary opportunity for new attorneys at participating firms to defer private practice for a year while they perform valuable public service at one of Philadelphia's legal services agencies, such as Community Legal Services, the Education Law Center and the Support Center for Child Advocates. The fellowship is administered by the Philadelphia Bar Foundation and is underwritten by the private law firm employer, who spreads the first year salary over two years; the law firm employer also provides benefits.

This program provides an invaluable resource for legal services agencies, which struggle daily with a very limited staff to meet the unending need for legal assistance for Philadelphians struggling with poverty, abuse and discrimination.

The program also provides invaluable experience for the new attorney, who will find a broad variety of work available, from direct legal representation to legal advocacy. Fellowship participants can expect substantial independent responsibility for their own caseload, including negotiating, taking depositions and even trying cases.

More importantly, the fellowship provides the opportunity to begin learning the practice of law under the direct supervision of some of the best public interest attorneys in the country, nationally renowned for their expertise. Above all, the fellowship program provides a crucial resource to the community.

For more information about the Philadelphia Public Interest Fellowship Program, please review the following information, or contact Gene Sirni, Executive Director, Philadelphia Bar Foundation, at (215) 238-6334 or

Description of The Process

The process begins once the third year law student has received and accepted an offer from a participating private law firm employer. The student, the employer or the Bar Foundation can secure a sponsoring legal services agency.

The sponsoring agency issues a letter to the fellow confirming the sponsorship. The fellow and private employer are encouraged to consider a written agreement that outlines procedures such as payroll, conflicts checking, and participation in the firm’s own training and other activities during the year of the fellowship.

Firms That Have Participated in the Fellowship Program:

Sponsoring Public Interest Organizations May Include:

  • Legal Clinic for the Disabled
  • Nationalities Service Center
  • Pennsylvania Health Law Project
  • Philadelphia Legal Assistance
  • Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program
  • Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
  • Regional Housing Legal Services
  • SeniorLaw Center
  • Support Center for Child Advocates
  • Women Against Abuse Legal Center Women’s Law Project
  • For more information visit The Directory of Public Interest Organizations.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Who pays the fellow?

    The private firm employer administers payroll and benefits.

    What is the pay rate during the first year? Upon return to the firm?

    The first year salary is spread over two years.

    How are case conflicts handled?

    The fellow should follow the private employer’s case conflict procedure.

    Who provides malpractice insurance?

    The fellow is covered under the agency’s insurance.

    Who determines where the fellow will work?

    Placement should balance the fellow’s interest, the agency’s need and the firm’s preference, if any.

    Is there an application process?

    No, a letter of intent from the agency to the fellow will suffice, with copies to the employer and Bar Foundation.