The University of Miami law school has a fellowship program for its students that was created two years ago and receives funding from the school and from private grants outside of the school. The program is called Legal Corps and it is a fellowship program that lasts for six months for postgraduate students, according to The Miami Herald.
The postgraduates are placed into public sector organizations and receive a stipend of $2,500 per month. The goal of the program is to offer brand new lawyers experience in the real world while also providing help to the organizations that likely cannot afford to hire legal aid.
Legal Corps is the brainchild of the law school’s dean, Patricia D. White. The director of Legal Corps, Tamesha Keel, said that Dean White “is very sensitive to the current economic conditions, which significantly impact both public service agencies and law school graduates. She thought that a training boot camp to assist our graduates in making the transition from law student to practicing employee was needed. At the same time, it is also important to do good work and make a meaningful contribution to the community.”
There are other types of these programs offered at law schools across the country but the stipends at the University of Miami are longer. The idea came about in 2009 as Dean White and officials from the university examined the economy and the weak job prospects in the legal industry. They tried to get first-year legal students to defer their admission.
As of today, roughly 150 law school graduates have participated in the program, with 26 currently holding fellowships. The majority of the law grads were placed in organizations in South Florida. Some other fellowships have been issued in Latin America, Switzerland and Germany. For an organization to be considered as part of the program it must be a public-sector agency and a nonprofit. The organization also has to supply an attorney who will supervise the work of the fellow.
So far,109 of the 150 fellows have acquired jobs either during their fellowship or at the conclusion of it. There are fellows who enter the private sector while some remain in the public service for their work.
A graduate of the law school, Matt Buser, applied for a fellowship with LegalArt. LegalArt is a nonprofit organization that provides free, bartered and reduced legal help to artists.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Buser said. “LegalArt gets legal help it wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, and I get experience in the field I’m interested in.” Buser said that he would like to continue working with LegalArt when his fellowship ends via pro bono work. “It’s something I enjoy and something I know is helping others.”