100% employment: Meeting a lofty goal
Of course, every year there is a small number of students for whom the desired jobs don’t work out, or who are planning to launch their careers in government, public interest agencies, small firms, or businesses that do not typically hire applicants until after they have passed the bar exam (summer bar exam results are not available until the late summer or fall following graduation). So how does Duke help them make the transition to practice?
“Two years ago we saw that more of our students wanted to commit to public service careers or pursue more unique paths,” Elvin said. “This is of course something we want to encourage and support and expand. But we knew that they needed to work in the interim to continue to build skills, develop professional relationships, enhance references, and have a substantive platform from which to pursue their full-time goals. As the saying goes, ‘You need a job to get a job.’ We also wanted to provide more help to those students who were still trying to determine their path or who hadn’t found the full-time job they hoped for.”To that end, the Career Center launched the Bridge to Practice program, which offers an eight- to 12-week fellowship in a variety of legal positions.
Graduates are paid a stipend, usually supported by alumni contributions
, gain on-the-ground experience, and strengthen their lawyering skills. They also work throughout their fellowship with career counselors and mentors to continue their searches
Students may apply for fellowships in late spring; securing a position before graduation allows them to focus on studying for the bar during the summer with a little less worry, Elvin added.
“When we approached employers with the idea, they were thrilled,” Elvin said. “Often these are some of our best students, so the chance to have those extra hands for eight weeks is very attractive.”
Since 2008, Bridge to Practice fellows have worked in positions around the country, with nonprofit and advocacy organizations, district attorneys offices, law firms, and courts. Fellowships provide a springboard to other positions and, in some cases, convert into permanent positions with the host employer.
"Through the Bridge to Practice, I was able to continue working on cases and prepare for one of my DA interviews, where I was asked to ‘run the courtroom,'" said Kyle Pousson '08, whose fellowship led to a permanent position with the Durham County District Attorney's Office. "Because the office knew me well and I was working there before and after my bar studies, I was in a great position to become an ADA once I had passed the bar."