Harold Oaklander Public Interest Fellowships

Harold Oaklander Public Interest Fellowships
To Advance Justice and Public Policy Against Persistent Unemployment

An endowment established by Dr. Harold Oaklander, ILR '52, provides for up to eight summer fellowships annually. Law students will work with non-profit host organizations dedicated to assisting the unemployed and under-employed. This unique fellowship offers students the opportunity to:

  • Represent low-income clients under the supervision of experienced practitioners
  • Participate in special U.S. Department of Labor events
  • Develop substantive legal writing samples

Additionally, the Fellowship includes the opportunity to interact with Cornell faculty and other leading experts at these events:

  • A pre-fellowship on-campus orientation session in April
  • A post-fellowship de-briefing dinner meeting in September where Fellows will present their field reports.  Selected reports will be archived in the Law School Library.

Stipend:  Students eligible for work-study funding will receive a maximum $5,000 grant. Students not eligible for work-study funding will receive a lump sum payment of $2,600.Additionally, a $300 prize will be awarded as appropriate to one Fellow who shows outstanding dedication to serving the unemployed. The prize winner will be recognized at the Law School's annual Public Interest Awards Ceremony at the New York City Bar Association in the early spring.

Fellowship Term:  Eight weeks during the general time period of mid-May to mid-August.Exact dates to be determined by agreement between selected students and host organizations.

Fellowship Details:  The bulk of the Fellows' summers will be spent assisting host attorneys with legal work relating to unemployment issues; research, writing, client counseling, etc.  Fellows will begin their fellowship with a one-day orientation at the One-Stop Job Center. A representative from the host office will be encouraged to attend as well. Fellows will be available throughout the summer to participate in special U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) events, exposing themselves, one day at a time, to peak experiences, face-to-face with the unemployment system's primary actors. Examples include:

  • A lay-off is announced and the DOL dispatches a Rapid Response team of specialists to the plant or office to be impacted by a mass dismissal. The Fellow is invited to shadow the team on their first day, meeting with employer and workers slated to be laid off.The Fellow will gather data as the event progresses, so as to enable a report for later delivery, including an opinion on the event's potential unanticipated consequences;

  • Attend and report on one of the One-Stop's weekly meetings at which the newly unemployed are introduced to the services available and are invited to raise questions;

  • Visit a local employer to interview and report on how a significant workforce redundancy problem was solved to the benefit of both employer and threatened employees. This employer applied to the DOL, and was approved, to use the new Federal Work Sharing Program.Thus, a layoff was avoided and unemployment was prevented thanks to an uncommon application of social entrepreneurship.

During the course of the summer, Fellows will develop their major written report on an unemployment-related topic of their choosing. This 15- to 20-page field report will be inspired by and influenced by the legal service work they do, or by one particular special event their state DOL invited them to participate in.  In addition to the above report, Fellows are requested to assemble a 4- to 5-page event report on each of the other special events not otherwise covered.

Application Process:  Information about summer 2015 fellowships will be available in late 2014.  Participating host organizations for summer 2014 were:  

  • Tompkins/Tioga Neighborhood Legal Services, Ithaca, New York
  • Volunteers of Legal Service Unemployment Insurance Advocacy Project, New York, NY
  • Frank H. Hiscock Legal Aid Society, Syracuse, NY
  • Legal Services of Greater Miami, Miami, FL
  • Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston, MA