Rutgers-Newark Establishes “Residency” Program
Break out the white coats, because the new attorneys are making the rounds.
Residencies may be coming to a law school near you. But don’t expect law grads to don scrubs. And they certainly won’t circle around frightened clients as faculty members pelt them with questions. But they will get a shot at gaining experience, earning a paycheck, and helping the less fortunate in the process. What’s not to like?
These days, it’s hard enough for law grads to land jobs. And forget training. In the best situations, it is sink-or-swim and learn-as-you-go. At worst, new lawyers are crammed into a corner to review contracts and draft memos.
But through the Rutgers Law Associates Fellowship Programs, students are working directly with clients and running cases start-to-finish.
Mind you, this isn’t a new idea. Last year, Cleveland State’s David Barnhizer suggested that schools develop incubators (i.e. internal firms) to help students gain practical experience. In fact, many schools, including the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, maintain in-house law firms (i.e. clinics), where students handle real cases under the supervision of faculty and practicing attorneys. Generally, these clinics serve populations who lack resources, such as criminal defendants, immigrants, and the elderly.
So how is this different?
For starters, this program is targeted at graduates, not students. What’s more, these graduates earn a $30,000 salary to start – and can return for a second year at $40,000. That’s not great pay, but it beats stocking shelves and serving tables.
Here’s how it works: This year, six Rutgers School of Law-Newark graduates got selected for paid fellowships. Working out of an office in the school’s Center for Law and Justice, they handle “criminal, divorce, custody, special education, estate, landlord-tenant and other cases for clients who make too much money to qualify for free legal help.” Clients get billed at $50 an hour, a far cry from the $250-$300 hourly rate charged by many private attorneys, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
The program is supervised by Andy Rothman, associate dean of the school. Like a doctor, he makes rounds to discuss pending cases and offer advice to graduates. Funded by a private gift, the fellowship relies on word-of-mouth. However, it is already drawing enough paying clients that it could soon turn a profit, according to Rothman.
In the process, the fellowship acts as a priceless training ground for Rutgers graduates. For example, Tabitha Clark learned the arraignment process first-hand from representing a client. In the process, Clark and others help clients avoid jail and even poverty. “We’re their last hope,” says graduate Whitney English, “and with that comes a lot of responsibility. It’s either us or no attorney at all.”
Source: Newark Star-Ledger