Alumni News

Ryan Asalone and Dylan Arnold, both L’17, work opposite sides of the courtroom in Hampton, Virginia, but each arrived there by following the same track.

Asalone and Arnold, recipients of Bridge to Practice fellowships, are beneficiaries of a highly successful post-graduate program created by the law school in 2012.

“The program has been absolutely essential to my success so far,” said Arnold, who joined the “gangs, guns, and drugs” prosecution team with the Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office full time after a bridge fellowship there last year.

“You come out of law school kind of in flux” until you’ve passed the bar exam, said Asalone, who works in the Hampton Public Defender’s Office. The fellowship provided the income “to keep the lights on and landed me here doing what I’d hoped to do. It’s really exciting stuff, fast-paced, interesting. I’m getting tons of experience.”

The bridge program began with five fellows and has grown steadily, with 18 fellowships awarded to members of the Class of 2018.

Fellowships come with a $2,000 monthly stipend and extend for up to four months. Fellows are not paid otherwise.

Students apply for the program during spring semester of their final year and are selected by a faculty committee “on the basis of a demonstrated interest in government or public interest law and overall professionalism in the field.”

Among the most important considerations are the applicants’ efforts to secure a placement in nonprofit organizations, the courts, governmental agencies, and public law firms with public interest or pro bono practices.

The program demonstrates Richmond Law’s commitment to students after graduation, according to Tara Casey, the professor who directs the program.

The program provides more than financial support. Casey meets with each fellow by phone or in person at least once a month.

Their conversations focus on setting clear short- and long-term goals and analyzing how the work is going.

“We want to know if people they work with are giving positive notices to what they are doing,” Casey said. “Is this experience helping fellows to develop support networks around their work and then to maximize those networks? It’s a professional coaching program.”

So far, more than 90 percent of fellows have landed jobs by the end of their fellowships, Casey said.

“The program is successful because of the quality of the fellows,” Casey said. “They’re good lawyers, good people, and strong ambassadors for the law school.

“It’s been great for the fellows, their employers, and the communities where they work.”