LawFuel.com – program will place graduates in organizations throughout the u.s.
Coral Gables, FL (October 14, 2010) – The University of Miami School of Law announces the establishment of Legal Corps, an ambitious postgraduate fellowship program which will place recent law graduates in public agencies, public interest organizations, and judicial chambers in Florida and throughout the country.
All UM Law graduates beginning with the class of December 2009 who have been admitted to a state bar are eligible for the six-month fellowships. Once placed, Legal Corps Fellows will receive monthly stipends of $2,500. Fellows will be required to participate in rigorous biweekly professional development sessions presented by leading lawyers. These training sessions will provide the Fellows with close to 2 years of Continuing Legal Education credit.
In announcing the program, UM Law Dean Patricia D. White said, “We believe that Legal Corps is the first serious attempt by a law school to contribute in a significant way to both the enormous unmet need for legal services and the harsh economic realities faced by recent law school graduates. We take seriously our continuing responsibility to our graduates and our responsibility as members of the legal profession.
“This program is conceived as a way to provide help to the understaffed and overburdened public interest organizations, governmental agencies, and courts whose funding has not kept pace with the workload of these challenging times and to provide training, experience, and opportunity to our graduates.”
Dean White went on to say: “A unique aspect of our program is the six-month duration, which provides enough time for a newly licensed lawyer both to learn important skills and to be able to do real and useful work. A $2,500 per month stipend is not large, but it is comparable to those given to postdoctoral fellows in other disciplines.
“The experience gained, the connections made, and the opportunity to use their skills to make a difference to those in need will be invaluable. I hope that other schools will follow our lead and that, together, we can begin to focus on what is important.”
Although it remains to be seen how many UM Law graduates will participate in Legal Corps, Dean White said that the school will attempt to accommodate all those who are qualified. Scores of employers from South Florida to California have agreed to participate in the program, with more than 200 potential placements spanning a wide variety of legal areas already available for Legal Corps Fellows.
“At a time when the public sector is hurting because of budget cuts and law firms are not hiring at the rate they used to, Legal Corps provides a new way of giving recent graduates the opportunity to gain valuable experience while at the same time providing much needed assistance to those entities in the public sector with a critical need for legal resources,” said U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan.
Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis agreed that the program provides a “unique opportunity for service. It captures both the advancement of the interests of new lawyers and provides assistance to organizations in need of legal talent.”
Other leaders in the Florida legal community were equally supportive and enthusiastic.
“This is a very creative program. It gives law graduates the opportunity to serve in the public sector and gain valuable legal experience which can later be used, if so desired, in the private sector,” said Cesar Alvarez, executive chairman of the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, P.A. “I think that one of the favorable consequences of this program is that some of the participating individuals, who originally did not consider working in the public sector, will, when exposed to it, decide to pursue full-time careers in it.”
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said the program will instill responsible lawyering in the graduates.
“Opportunities where attorneys have the chance to really help individuals on a personal level are invaluable and the kind of experiences that can shape the career choices of young attorneys for the rest of their lives,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said the program “accomplishes what we in the legal profession should have been doing all along and provides what resembles an apprenticeship for UM Law graduates.”
Although national in scope, Legal Corps will be administered from the law school’s offices at the Chesterfield Smith Center for Equal Justice in downtown Miami. It is a fitting location given Chesterfield Smith’s dedication to help those in need during his legendary legal career and the proximity to the organizations where many of the Fellows will work.