Value of a Fellowship at a law firm

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vegeta
Posts: 74
Joined: Sat May 12, 2012 3:43 am

Value of a Fellowship at a law firm

Postby vegeta » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:56 pm

Hello. I was wondering if any of you guys had any insight into the benefits of a Fellowship at a law firm. I ask because I saw that there was a small environmental law firm that has a fellowship application process. It seems to be a pretty well-known firm that represents government agencies, community groups, and the like.

Some questions I was wondering:

Does this preserve my eligibility to apply for DOJ Honors?
Does working in a small public interest-oriented law firm give me all the negatives of law firm life with government pay?
If you have any other insight that you think would be helpful to know, I would much appreciate it!

Thanks!

Renzo
Posts: 4265
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:23 am

Re: Value of a Fellowship at a law firm

Postby Renzo » Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:47 pm

Generally such fellowships are about the only way in to a career in a sought-after, but low-paying public interest field, such as pro-environment enviro work, union-side labor work, civil rights work, etc. These firms/organizations often don't have the work or budget to hire new grads, so they hire fellows for a few years. Perhaps the fellowship turns into a permanent job at that firm/organization, if they have the need and budget when it ends; and if not, it's a bona fide that other groups/firms in that niche will recognize, which will open doors for you. These jobs tend to go to "true believers" who work hard not because they are pushed, but because they care about the cause, so in my experience they work more than gov't attorneys (for much less money), but less than private practice firm lawyers.

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OperaSoprano
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Re: Value of a Fellowship at a law firm

Postby OperaSoprano » Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:26 am

Renzo wrote:Generally such fellowships are about the only way in to a career in a sought-after, but low-paying public interest field, such as pro-environment enviro work, union-side labor work, civil rights work, etc. These firms/organizations often don't have the work or budget to hire new grads, so they hire fellows for a few years. Perhaps the fellowship turns into a permanent job at that firm/organization, if they have the need and budget when it ends; and if not, it's a bona fide that other groups/firms in that niche will recognize, which will open doors for you. These jobs tend to go to "true believers" who work hard not because they are pushed, but because they care about the cause, so in my experience they work more than gov't attorneys (for much less money), but less than private practice firm lawyers.


This is 100% spot on, with the caveat that fellows will probably work whatever hours are considered normal at the organization. I will add that fellowships not funded by your school (be they firm sponsored, Equal Justice Works, Skadden, etc) tend to be extremely competitive. This is partially a function of their number (several dozen to a few hundred in a given year, combining all sources), and partially because, as Renzo pointed out, few PI organizations can afford to make direct hires ITE, so this is just about the only way in. They are taken seriously, and can be pretty prestigious (one of my profs was both a Supreme Court clerk and a Skadden fellow)

I am not sure if they'd preserve DOJ eligibility-- it varies, according to DOJ website, though "bridge" fellowships under nine months don't seem to count:

DOJ website wrote:B. Qualifying Full-time Legal Fellowships: There are an increasing number of legal fellowships that may preserve HP eligibility. Due to the wide variety of programs, OARM cannot provide an exclusive list. Instead, the online application will permit candidates to apply on a conditional basis. Candidates will be asked to provide specific information about the fellowship in order to permit OARM to determine whether an exception to policy will be granted. Legal fellowships may be paid or unpaid, and are subject to the same requirements as other eligibility preserving activities (see paragraph A, above). The following additional conditions apply:

The Fellowship may not be part-time.
If the Fellowship involves the practice of law, it must be the only significant legal employment following law school graduation. (Work performed in other eligibility preserving activities excluded).
If a fellowship was with an Executive Branch agency, and the fellow entered federal service via 14-month appointment to the excepted service as a law clerk trainee, then he or she must be admitted to the bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) within 14 months of the initial entry on duty date. An appointment that was initially made for less than 14 months may be extended for a period not to exceed 14 months in total duration. Only one such appointment is authorized (5 C.F.R. §§ 213.101, 213.3102).


In short, if you want a career in PI, firm/org funded fellowships are awesome. School funded fellowships also help a large number of people launch PI careers, with the caveat that they apparently can't be used alone to preserve DOJ eligibility. It's worth noting that a number of schools only fund short term, part time fellowships, and you'll likely need a year or more of full-time work to gain transferable experience. (As Renzo points out, the org will sometimes come up with funding for you to stay on, if it can do so.)

vegeta
Posts: 74
Joined: Sat May 12, 2012 3:43 am

Re: Value of a Fellowship at a law firm

Postby vegeta » Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:12 pm

Thanks a lot for the responses. Just bumping to see if anyone else knew.




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