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Rutgers Law Launches Associates Fellowship Program

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In January of 2014, Rutgers School of Law–Newark launched the nation’s first post-doctoral fellowship program of its kind, designed to train recent law graduates as practitioners, while providing legal services to low to moderate-income New Jersey residents at fees substantially below market rates.

Fellows devote one year to closely supervised practice and associated courses in professional responsibility, small firm management, and relevant practice areas. Upon completing the program, these lawyers will be fully prepared to join established law practices in either the public or private sector or to launch viable quality practices of their own.

Managing the new program is Associate Dean Andrew J. Rothman, an attorney/educator and alumnus of the school who is committed to legal education and professional practice, and who has extensive courtroom and classroom experience. Unlike the established pattern for medical students, Rothman noted, “Law schools have never developed the residency model, and that has left for an alarming deficiency in practical skills when beginning their practices soon after graduation.”

The first class of six law school fellows began working in the program this semester. They work on client matters about two-thirds of their time, and participate in seminars modeled after medical residency “rounds,” covering various specialized practice areas, courtroom procedure, business development and management, and problems in professional responsibility. As they progress through the program, fellows devote some of their time to client development as well. The fellows receive a modest stipend, and Rutgers Law School covers all the tuition costs associated with their coursework.

What distinguishes the Rutgers Law Associates Fellowship Program is the concentrated skills training gained while serving clients of modest means, with the daily vetting and support of that service during rounds. Fellows work collaboratively, brainstorming and critiquing one another with the managing attorney, to develop best practices for their client work. Unlike other postgraduation training programs, the Rutgers Law Associates Fellowship is an educational enterprise of the Law School and is not an independent non-profit law firm.

In keeping with a longstanding tradition at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, this program has benefits not just for the students but also serves the school’s public service mission. Recent economic stresses have put tremendous pressure on a growing segment of the population that falls in between those eligible for legal assistance (public defenders, legal aid organizations and law school clinics) and those wealthy enough to afford private attorneys. The new program offers affordable legal services to help meet this burgeoning need.