After graduation, Clint Seal, L’16, was ready to get to work. But with plans to work in the public sector, his ability to apply for jobs was on hold until the results of his bar exam were in.
“If you want to work with a private firm, they can hire you before the bar results come out; they just can’t bill your work out as attorney hours,” Seal said. “For government jobs, you can’t apply, you can’t interview, they can’t even talk to you about a job.”
Instead, Seal received one of Richmond Law’s Bridge to Practice Fellowships, which allowed him to spend the summer working for the public defender’s office in Charlottesville, Va.
The four-month program is a launch pad for students planning to pursue careers in government and public interest law. They gain valuable work experience while preparing to take the bar. Since its inception in 2012, the program has quadrupled in size; 20 recent graduates benefited from fellowships in 2016, bringing the total number of fellows to 58.
Last year’s graduates secured fellowship positions across the country, ranging from the disAbility Law Center and the Virginia attorney general’s office in Richmond to the Harris County district attorney’s office in Texas. Six fellows worked for commonwealth’s attorney offices, while five more worked on the other side of the aisle in public defender offices.
Some students parlay their fellowships into full-time positions. After spending last summer in Harris County, Micala MacRae, L’16, was hired as an assistant district attorney.
Many more cite their experiences when interviewing for positions with other government agencies. Seal’s summer at the Charlottesville Public Defender’s Office allowed him to hit the ground running when he joined the public defender’s office in Staunton, Virginia, later that year.
“I think when you’re starting out, any amount of experience is invaluable,” Seal said. “I was trying cases in general district court, helping try jury trials in circuit court, researching, writing, helping out with administrative stuff in the office; it was a little bit of everything. I spent four months getting a little bit better at this job.
“The Bridge to Practice fellowship gives people that breathing room so that they can wait for bar results to come out and then get a job in the public sector.”