Fellowship Application

The ABA Center for Innovation encourages and accelerates innovations that improve the affordability, effectiveness, efficiency, and accessibility of legal services.

Have you ever thought that with enough time and resources you could develop answers to the many challenges affecting the legal profession and our justice system?

Now’s your chance. Come work with us at the new ABA Center for Innovation. Be one of our first fellows.

If you want to:
  • Improve Access to Justice
  • Use technology to address an urgent legal need
  • Design a better legal service delivery method
  • Help the public access legal information more easily
  • Give lawyers tools to work better, faster, and cheaper
  • Reduce the backlog in the courts
  • Address an urgent need in the community
  • Design solutions for self-represented litigants

The ABA Center for Innovation will provide you a space to dream big, build fast and make a difference in the legal community.

What is the ABA Center for Innovation Fellows Program?

The Center for Innovation is seeking creative thinkers to develop and launch new projects to address critical needs in the legal sector.

NextGen Fellows Recent – within the last 5 years – law school graduates will spend one year in-residence at the ABA headquarters in Chicago, IL. These fellows will receive a salary of $45,000, along with benefits, during their time in the program. The first cohort of fellows will begin August 1, 2017 and complete their work by July 31, 2018. Bar admission is not necessary.

Innovation Fellows Interested individuals are invited to take a 9-12 week sabbatical from their workplace and spend that time at the ABA headquarters in Chicago working on projects that will improve the legal sector and practice of law. There is no stipend for this fellowship, but the ABA will work with other legal and judicial organizations (e.g. courts, corporations, law schools and bar associations) to develop sponsorships to assist you. There are few limitations on areas of focus for these fellows; if it touches our justice system, it is ripe for intervention and innovation. The first Innovation Fellows will start in April 2017 and will attend on a rolling basis, determined by the length of their participation.

Who are we looking for? Our Fellows:
  • Are open to learning and working in a collaborative atmosphere
  • Can take an idea from conception to implementation
  • Have an ability to jump into the unknown
  • Arrive with an idea of what they hope to achieve
What are the benefits of the ABA Center for Innovation Fellows Program?

You will have access to the top innovators, educators, technologists and designers in the nation.

You will receive a comprehensive “boot camp” training to help kickstart your project.

You will be able to take advantage of ongoing learning opportunities in and around Chicago from institutions like Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Chicago Kent Law School, IIT Institute of Design, 1871 Chicago Technology and Entrepreneur Incubator, courts, legal aid organizations and more.

You will be able to participate in many learning opportunities at the ABA and affiliated groups.

How do I apply?

The application has two required parts:

  • Provide a 500-750 word project statement that outlines the problem you propose to address, what work you’ve done on this problem, what resources you think you would need to develop your project and what outcomes you hope to achieve.  Be sure to indicate which type of fellowship you are applying for.
  • Send a resume and include, if available, a link to your website or professional social media profile.

Optional: Send us a short, 2-3 minute video or multi-media presentation, highlighting what you think we need to know about you and the uniqueness you will bring to the Fellows Program. Be creative!

Please send applications to: innovationcenter@americanbar.org

 The January 31st application deadline has passed, and the Center is no longer accepting applications.
What is the selection process?

Applications will be reviewed by the Center’s staff and volunteer leadership. Finalists for the fellowships will interview with the Selection Committee by phone or Skype. Recipients will be notified in March 2017.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I work during my fellowship?
The Fellows Program is a full-time commitment and we ask the participants to not have other job responsibilities during the fellowship.

Can I work remotely or do I need to come to Chicago?
One of the benefits of this fellowship is the interaction that you will get with other fellows, Center staff and local experts. Therefore, all fellows must work out of the Chicago ABA office.

I am collaborating with a partner on my project. Can we apply together?
You should both apply for the fellowship individually. If accepted, you can continue to collaborate on your project while at the American Bar Association.  These fellowships and the Center for Innovation are all about working together!

Am I allowed to seek outside funding for my fellowship?
Yes, especially if you would like to apply for the shorter Innovation Fellowship, as that is not funded by the American Bar Association.

Who owns the IP for my project?
We hope that any tools and materials that you create here will be licensed in an open and free manner. However, if you choose not to do this, we will work with you on establishing the rights for the project.

What will the ABA provide during the fellowship?
All fellows will have access to the top innovators, educators, technologists and designers in the nation. Additionally, they will receive a comprehensive “boot camp” training to help kickstart their project. Fellows will be able to take advantage of ongoing learning opportunities in and around Chicago from institutions like Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Chicago Kent Law School, IIT Institute of Design, 1871 Chicago Technology and Entrepreneur Incubator, courts, legal aid organizations and more. Finally, they will be able to participate in many learning opportunities at the ABA and affiliated groups.

NextGen Fellows will receive a salary of $45,000 (and benefits) for their year at the ABA.

You will be provided space (with all the accoutrements and office supplies that you’ll need) in the ABA Center for Innovation’s collaborative work space.

Do I have to be a programmer?
You don’t need to have any programming experience. However, you should have some sense of the technology that may be needed to bring your project to fruition.

Do I have to be a lawyer or law graduate?
The NextGen Fellows are required to be a law graduate. However, the Innovation Fellows can be anyone who wants to improve the justice system and legal profession.

We are looking forward to meeting you!

Together we can change the world!