Selection Criteria

The Initiative's primary goals are to connect inadequately represented groups with legal services, launch the careers of public interest attorneys, and fund innovative projects.

All proposals must satisfy the Initiative's mandatory criteria.  Applications are due March 1, 2020.

Mandatory Criteria

  • The project will protect the legal rights or interests of inadequately represented groups.
  • The project will be undertaken in conjunction with a sponsoring organization.

The Initiative also has several preferential criteria. Preferential criteria are not requirements. For example, the Initiative has funded proposals from non-Yale Law students, as well as projects that operate outside of Connecticut. A list of past grant recipients is available at the bottom of this page.

Preferential Criteria

  • The project has the potential to provide a model for similar work around the country.
  • The project can be completed in a single year or demonstrates the potential to become self-supporting. This includes the potential to receive support from alternative sources within the year. (We will also consider partial grants for projects that can be completed in less than a year.)
  • The project will operate in the United States.
  • The project will operate in Connecticut.
  • The applicant is a graduate of Yale Law School.
  • The applicant has not received a prior year-long public interest fellowship.
  • The applicant is within three years of graduation from law school.

The Initiative will not fund any project that focuses on conducting academic research or serving the needs of an individual client. Additionally, we will not fund a project for which the applicant will receive academic credit.

Selection Process

Grant recipients are selected in a two-step process. In preparation for the first selection meeting, every member of the Initiative's Board of Directors will read a one-page summary of each proposal and the entirety of approximately three or four applications, for which they will lead the discussion. At least two directors will read every application. Applicants are encouraged to write both an informative one-page summary and a persuasive proposal. A group of finalists is selected at the first meeting.

Finalists selected at the initial meeting will be interviewed by the selection committee by phone. You must participate in the final selection interview in order to receive a grant.

Questions about the grant application and selection process should be directed to

Application Requirements


All applications should be submitted electronically to as one PDF document. Applications received in any other format will not be accepted, with the exception that if your recommenders wish to write under a separate cover, they may do so. Please have them send an email with "[Your name] – 2020 Grant Application" in the subject line.

Please write as the subject of your email and save your PDF file as "[Your Name] - 2020 Grant Application."

The grant application must include the following items, IN THE ORDER LISTED. Please use 12-pt Times New Roman font when typing your application materials.

  1. A title or cover page, including the name, address, email, and telephone number of the contact person; the title of the project; the location of the project; and the amount of funding being requested. The cover page should also include a one-sentence description of the project. Please indicate on the title page if you an alum of Yale Law School or the Initiative (year and position).
  2. A one-page summary of your proposal. The summary must include the title of the project, a summary of the target problem, the target population (if any), the steps proposed to address the problem, the project's overall objectives, the name of sponsoring organization(s), and the funding amount requested. Please also include a brief description of yourself and your relevant experiences. The typed summary must fit on one side of an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper.
  3. A description of the project, not to exceed 10 double-spaced pages, addressing the following points (in any order):
    1. The need or problem that the project addresses. Include a discussion of what, if anything, has been done already to address the problem and by whom, and why past efforts have been inadequate. Please also explain the expected impact of the project; the geographical focus of the project; the target group; and the effect of the project on the problems mentioned.
    2. Project goals. Discuss your specific goals for the project, steps you will take to reach your goals, and how they relate to the needs discussed. You may want to frame the goals in terms of benchmarks or milestones against which you will be able to measure your progress.
    3. Proposed project timeline. Describe any work already performed and other information regarding your background or preparation for the project. If the project has been established, describe the history and success of past efforts.
    4. Overall budget. Include an itemized list of the project's annual expenses and sources of funding (including in-kind support). For each source of funding other than the Initiative, state whether the proposed project has already received a commitment and, if not, when one is expected. Set out any factors, conditions, or events upon which the support is contingent. Discuss how you imagine supporting the project after its first year (if the project will continue). If possible, please indicate whether the project could proceed with a partial grant.
    5. Description of your relevant experience, relevant personal background, and commitment to the project and/or the population to be served. Please also describe the roles and experience of any other individuals expected to be involved in the project.
    6. Description of the sponsoring organization and how it can contribute to the success of the project. Discuss the ways in which the project will relate to the sponsoring organization. Include a brochure and the most recent annual budget available. The budget should be sufficiently detailed to demonstrate the organization's ability or inability to fund the proposal itself. Please also discuss potential allies or existing organizations who might provide other assistance to the project.
  4. Resume
  5. Letters of Support (3): Please include two letters of support from people who either know your work well or are very familiar with the proposed project and one letter from your sponsoring organization. Ideally, your letters should not come from individuals currently serving on the Initiative's Board of Directors. We understand, however, that asking a Board member for a letter may be unavoidable. Should one of your letters come from any person currently serving on the Initiative's Board of Directors, that Board member will be recused from evaluating your application.
  6. Other Supplemental Materials (Optional): Please include any other information pertaining to your proposal or its sponsors that you consider relevant. In the past, applicants have submitted materials from their sponsoring organizations or news articles that talk about the problem targeted by the project. This is not required.


Past Grant Recipients

Blake Allen, Georgetown University Law Center ’20, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. Mr. Allen will provide civil legal aid to criminal justice reentrants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, helping his clients navigate the dense network of the state’s collateral consequences to incarceration. He will also establish a monthly reentry clinic connecting reentrants with on-site services and connections to other reliable representation, and he will engage in systemic policy and advocacy work seeking to eliminate some of the most onerous barriers to successful reentry.


Annie Manhardt, Yale Law School ’16, Prisoners’ Rights Office, State of Vermont. Ms. Manhardt assisted Vermont elders who are in prison and on probation and parole. Her caseload included petitions for post-conviction relief, prison dental car, access to programming and furlough, and efforts to find housing for clients eligible for parole.

Corinne Waite, Yale Law School ’16, American Gateways. Ms. Waite will represent indigent clients in removal proceedings in the Pearsall and San Antonio Immigration Courts. Her project focuses specifically on cases that are particularly complicated as well as cases that could reunite families. Ms. Waite will also create written materials to facilitate American Gateways’ assistance to pro bono clients and referrals to pro bono attorneys.

Chi-Ser Tran, Temple University School of Law ’16, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. Ms. Tran will devise and implement a strategy to address employment challenges for low-wage workers in Philadelphia with a particular focus on limited English proficient Asian immigrant workers.

Molly Rose Green, American University, Washington College of Law ’14, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. Ms. Green will use legislative advocacy and community education to help Kentuckians obtain expungement of their criminal records.

Lila Meadows, University of Maryland School of Law ’15, Second Chance for Women. Ms. Meadows will help people serving long-term sentences navigate the parole process and will propose reforms to the parole and risk assessment system.

Ashley Steele, University of Texas School of Law ‘14, Texas Capital Direct Appeal Project. Ms. Steele will work with the Texas Defender Service to address the lack of quality legal representation at the direct appeals level for those sentenced to death in Texas. Ms. Steele will advocate for the creation of a new public defender office for capital direct appeals. 

Diana Blank, Yale Law School’13, Expanding Representation of Undocumented Immigrants at New Haven Legal Assistance:  Ms. Blank will collaborate with state and local actors to improve the process through which people apply for U-visas, empowering them to escape domestic violence and exploitation.

Brendan Conner, CUNY School of Law’13, The Survival Law Project at Streetwise and Safe:  Mr. Conner will provide civil legal representation and policy support on a community organizing model for LGBTQ youth of color who experience prostitution-related police encounters and government benefits discrimination in New York City.

Oscar Espino-Padron, UCLA School of Law '11, Countering Wage Theft in the Underground Economy: Mr. Espino-Padron will collaborate with the Wage Justice Center to use mechanic's lien litigation to combat unenforceable paper judgments and reinforce underground economy workers' rights and dignity in Los Angeles, California.

Erin Pettigrew, University of Washington School of Law '12, Wage Collection Project: Ms. Pettigrew will work with the Northwest Workers' Justice Project to combat wage injustice through collections advocacy for low-wage immigrant workers in Oregon.

Nicole T.S. Cortés and Jessica Mayo, Washington University School of Law '12, Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project: Ms. Cortés and Ms. Mayo will direct the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project (MICA Project), a new, St. Louis-based organization that works with immigrant communities to reduce the need for legal services through organizing, education, pro se assistance, and legal advocacy.

Sharanya Kanikkannan, Yale Law School '11, Human Rights Monitoring in Timor-Leste: Ms. Kanikkannan will organize and prepare legal training and materials for the NGO support network of the National Human Rights Institute of Timor-Leste to find victims, report human rights abuses, and conduct community rights training.

Zachary Duffly, Berkeley School of Law '11, Healthcare Access Advocacy Project for People with Disabilities: Mr. Duffly will collaborate with disability and civil rights advocates to expand and apply a detailed, practical, and replicable strategy that combines policy advocacy, education, outreach, structured negotiations, and impact litigation to reduce stark disparities in healthcare access for people with disabilities.

Thomas Smith, Georgetown University Law Center '08, Legal Services for Immigrant Worker Centers: Mr. Smith will launch Justice at Work, a non-profit organization providing legal services and other strategic resources to a coalition of workers' rights organizations focused on education, organizing, and advocacy of low-wage immigrant workers.

Cara Suvall, Harvard Law School '10, Court Education Intervention Project: In partnership wth The Bronx Defenders, Ms. Suvall will serve 16 and 17 year-olds in adult criminal court by pioneering a model of integrated criminal defense and education advocacy under the Individuals with Disability Education Act and New York law.

Atteeyah Hollie, Berkeley School of Law '10, Southern Center for Human Rights: Ms. Hollie will advocate for consistent and effective funding of Georgia's five year-old public defender system through a multi-step approach that incorporates impact litigation in Georgia counties failing to give its public defenders adequate resources, appellate cases that raise indigent defense issues, and collaboration with public defenders. 

Daniel Berlin, Georgetown University Law Center '09, Asylum Access Ecuador: Mr. Berlin will assist refugees in Ecuador in asserting their fundamental and constitutional rights.

Margaret Middleton, New York University School of Law '07, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center: Ms. Middleton will provide free legal services to low-income veterans visiting the Errera Community Care Center, an award-winning VA mental health center in West Haven, CT. This is the first time legal services have been brought into a VA facility.  

Medha Devanagondi, Yale Law School ’08, PAIR Women’s Asylum Project: Ms. Devanagondi will help improve the provision of legal services to female asylum seekers who are escaping gender-based violence and torture, through direct representation and creation of training materials for attorneys working on similar cases. Ms. Devanagondi will also develop a network of professionals and attorneys to provide pro bono representation and other services required to effectively represent asylum seekers with gender-based claims.

Maria Martinez, University of New Mexico School of Law ’08, New Mexico Colonias Strategic Advocacy Project: Ms. Martinez will asses the legal needs of the residents of the Pajarito Mesa colonia near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and will provide direct representation and systemic advocacy to improve living conditions.

C.J. Masimore, University of Michigan Law School ’04, Brooklyn Young Mothers’ Collective Legal Advocacy Project: Ms. Masimore will represent pregnant and parenting teens in administrative hearings and other legal proceedings related to public assistance, Medicaid, and school enrollment, among other things.

Matthew Schwoebel, University of California - Boalt Hall ’08, Jovenes para Derechos de Indigenas y Medio Ambiente: Mr. Schwoebel will create an indigenous youth-based organization that will enhance community capacity to respond to human rights violations and environmental harms caused by extractive activities in rural Peru.

Paul Keefe, CUNY School of Law at Queens College ’07, will advocate on behalf of the formerly incarcerated in New York City, combining community education and legal advocacy in an effort to remove barriers to employment, housing, and voting.

Nina Rabin, Yale Law School ’03, will start a worker center and legal clinic in Arizona serving low-wage domestic workers, many of whom are immigrant women.

Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys, Yale Law School ’07, will develop and implement curricula and advocacy materials on patient confidentiality for use by health care professionals in Kenya, Ethiopia and Malawi.

Homer Robinson, Yale Law School ’02, received a grant to manage a broad-based coalition in New Mexico in an effort to reform that state’s indigent defense system.

Rachel Nicotra, CUNY School of Law at Queens College ‘06, received a grant to implement a socially-responsible consumption campaign addressing the inadequate wages paid restaurant workers in New York City. 

Alexis Danzig and Megan Dorton received a grant to provide legal services to New York City’s growing elderly indigent and low-income LGBT population.

Rachel Micah-Jones received a grant to start a transnational workers’ rights law firm based in Central Mexico to help migrant workers assert their rights while in the U.S.

John Pollock received a grant to develop and bring impact litigation to combat source-of-income discrimination in Maryland’s housing market.

Melanie Carr received a grant to provide investigative assistance and mitigation development to indigent defendants facing the death penalty in Louisiana.

Victoria Gavito, St. Mary’s Law School ’04, received a grant to work with “theft of wages” claims to pursue prosecution of employers in Texas who fail to pay immigrant workers.

Kevin Kish, Yale Law School ’04, received a grant to provide outreach and legal representation to low-wage and undocumented car wash employees in Los Angeles County, utilizing newly-available state court claims based on recent legislation.

Tara Veazey, Yale Law School ’01, received a grant to make courts more accessible to low-income residents of rural Eastern Montana.

Kim Rinehart, Yale Law School ’99, received a grant to create a network of family child care providers in New Haven to raise the quality of family child care and help child care providers earn a living wage.

J. McGregor Smyth, Yale Law School ’99, was awarded a grant to establish a project to deliver fully-integrated civil and criminal legal services to indigent defense clients in the Bronx.

Dylan Vade, Stanford Law School ’02, received a grant to increase transgendered people’s access to health insurance and healthcare in California.

Sean Basinski, Georgetown University Law Center ’01, was awarded a grant to provide broad-scale legal, organizing, and advocacy services to the street vendors of New York City.

Michael Kagan, University of Michigan Law School ’00, was awarded a grant to represent refugee asylum seekers in Cairo and build a self-sustaining network of refugees to provide assistance in the future.

David Wycoff, Yale Law School ’92, and James Anderson, Yale Law School ’95, were awarded a grant to represent indigent death row prisoners in Pennsylvania’s state courts.

David Kelly, SUNY-Buffalo Law ’00, was awarded a grant to act as a legal guardian for older adolescents in Newark, New Jersey’s foster care system in order to reduce homelessness and equip the adolescents with the skills and services needed for independent living.

Lolita Pierce, UCLA School of Law ’99, was awarded a grant to provide comprehensive legal services and support for adolescent victims of domestic violence in Los Angeles County.

Benjamin Sachs, Yale Law School ’98, was awarded a grant to develop and coordinate a community-based project to provide legal representation, workers' rights training, and local organizing support to low-wage immigrant workers in Brooklyn.