Public Interest Law Initiative

About the Fellowship Program

PILI’s Graduate Fellowship Program places new associates from Chicago law firms at public interest law agencies, where they work 300 hours during the summer or fall before starting at their firms. This is a unique opportunity to gain lawyering experience, build your professional network, earn extra money and engage in meaningful work while studying for the bar. PILI ensures quality supervision by experienced agency attorneys and provides Fellows with valuable educational, networking and mentoring opportunities.

PILI Fellows develop skills that will give them a competitive edge in their careers. When they start at their firms, they bring real world experience working with clients, writing memos, preparing legal documents, or even appearing in court. PILI Fellows are also connected to pro bono from the very beginning of their careers, and after joining their firms, they often continue to work with the agency on pro bono matters.

Work Experience

PILI Fellows work on a wide and diverse range of issues depending on the agency where they serve. In addition to direct client services, PILI Fellows also do policy development and analysis, advocacy, impact litigation and more.

Here’s a look at the kind of work PILI Fellows have done recently:

  • worked on a direct appeal for a client on death row;
  • assisted at an adult guardianship help desk, drafting temporary guardianship documents as well as wills, living wills and powers of attorney for low-income seniors;
  • helped incorporate new small businesses and nonprofit organizations; and
  • prepped cases for trial, facilitated plea agreements, and assisted with arraignments.

Learn more about PILI’s Participating Agencies, including position descriptions »


As a PILI Fellow, you can be placed with an advisor from PILI’s Board of Directors or Alumni Network for career guidance, networking inroads and a personal introduction to the Illinois legal community. This is a great opportunity to get connected and start building your professional network from the beginning of your legal career.

Learn more about PILI’s Advising Program »


As a PILI Intern, your education doesn’t just happen at your agency. PILI organizes a series of weekly educational seminars for Interns over the summer, covering a range of hard skills and substantive law topics related to public interest law and pro bono. We also discuss career development ideas for law students interested in public interest law. Additionally, each fall and spring, we host at least one educational program for school-year PILI Interns.

See a list of upcoming PILI educational and networking events »


When you become a PILI Fellow, you join a class of over 100 law students and graduates serving the public interest through PILI that year. You also become part of a distinguished group of nearly 4,000 law students and lawyers who have been PILI Law Student Interns or Graduate Fellows since PILI was founded in 1977. With PILI’s Alumni Network, you can stay connected to PILI throughout your career through educational, networking, service and leadership opportunities.

Meet our current class of Interns and Fellows »

Learn more about the PILI Alumni Network »

What about the bar exam?

PILI Fellows regularly report that they have adequate time to study. In fact, many say that their Fellowship experience adds a welcome structure to this bar study period. Agencies hosting PILI Fellows are flexible with Fellows’ schedules to ensure ample bar study time. PILI Fellows typically register for the afternoon or evening bar review class so they can work in the morning and attend PILI’s lunchtime educational programs too.

How to apply:

  • Confirm that your hiring law firm participates in the PILI Graduate Fellowship Program.
  • Visit our website to read about the Participating Agencies in our Fellowship Program and to see position descriptions for each agency.
  • Apply to up to 10 agencies through our website starting on October 15th.
  • Interview directly with the agencies. Agencies select from among their applicants who they want to interview and ultimately hire.
  • Confirm your hire as a Graduate Fellow with PILI.

More on how to apply »

Law Firms Can Sponsor PILI Fellows:

Firms can benefit from their Fellows’ experience and training in law as well as their connections to public interest law agencies once they start at the firm. Participation also serves as an excellent recruitment tool, demonstrating your firm’s commitment to pro bono.

Learn more about sponsoring PILI Fellows and see a list of our current Graduate Fellow sponsors »

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