Following a year-long analysis of how to better serve students seeking an alternative to the traditional third year, Brooklyn Law School announced this week the Public Interest/Public Service Fellowships (“PipS”), a new two-year program in partnership with governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations.
Encompassing the third year of law school and first post-graduate year, the program offers not only invaluable experience for new lawyers, but also essential legal services to respected nonprofits and government agencies. Brooklyn Law School is the first institution on the East Coast to offer the Fellowships, which will begin in Fall 2014.
With the PiPs program, students will apply for Fellowships at 12 partner organizations. The growing roster of work sites includes the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA); Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project; Brooklyn Defender Services; Catholic Charities; Community Service Society; The Legal Aid Society; NYC Law Department; NY Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG); Public Health Solutions; Safe Horizon; NYC Transit Authority Law Department; and Youth Represent. Each partner will accept between one and nine Fellows, all of whom will be treated as entry-level employees, subject to limitations requiring admission to the bar.
The traditional three-year structure has been a flashpoint in the national conversation about legal education. While Brooklyn Law School is among a handful of institutions to offer an accelerated J.D. program, most law schools have maintained the standard third year, prompting debate about its effectiveness. President Obama joined the conversation in August when he remarked that students “would be better off clerking or practicing” in their final year of law school.
“PipS allows students to transition to law practice and have a guaranteed job after graduation,” said Professor Stacy Caplow, Associate Dean for Professional Legal Education, who spearheaded every aspect of the program’s implementation. “After two years of full-time work, the hope is that they will have accumulated enough experience to move on to their next job or continue with their fellowship employer.”
While the PipS experience will vary depending on the focus of each partner organization, the overall format applies to all Fellows. Following a rigorous selection process, each individual will commit to working full-time for the employer for two years. After nine months of work and evening classes, and following graduation, Fellows will have time to prepare for the bar exam. They will then return for another full year of work, with salaries provided by the partner organizations. At the end of the two-year cycle, the employer may opt to offer the Fellow a permanent job.
“The PipS Fellowships upends the conventional law school experience, with benefits for all parties,” said Dean Nick Allard. “Students are able to claim a full two years of on-the-ground legal training, giving them an edge in the marketplace. Partner organizations gain access to the services of motivated, entry-level employees with a long-term presence. And through Professor Caplow’s hard work, Brooklyn Law School is able to provide maximum experience and job opportunities for our students, part of our focused plan to enhance legal education.
“Similar programs have been successful on the West Coast, with the PipS Fellowships modeled after a similar program at UC Hastings,” Dean Allard added. “It is an important innovation in New York and a new approach for law schools.”
Read more about PipS.