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Duke Law to Give Stipends to Jobless Graduates; Washington U. Law Offers Jobless a Virtual Firm Summer

Vivia Chen

June 11, 2010

Yesterday we blogged about laid-off associates who are cut off from some plum public sector internships. Today, we're checking what law schools are doing for students and new graduates who have been luckless in the job market. Here are some recent developments:

Duke Law School's Bridge to Practice Program:

Above the Law reports that Duke Law School is going out its way to hustle up interim jobs for its graduates:

While it didn’t go the SMU route of paying employers to “test drive” its graduates, [Duke] does now provide stipends to some of its unemployed graduates to allow them to work for a couple months at no cost to employers. Using SMU’s car metaphor, the law school pays for the gas while Dukies and prospective employers take a little spin.

Duke's "Bridge to Practice" program started in 2008 with nine graduates; last year it had 15, and this year 30 are expected to participate, says ATL.

It strikes me that Duke is being fairly generous in paying stipends to 30 graduates, considering that the class is just over 200. Of course, that's also an indication of how graduates still need jobs. But it's still nice that a school is giving something back to its graduates in their moment of need. It's certainly better than hitting them up for the alumni contributions right after graduation.

Washington University School of Law 

Our sister publication The National Law Journal reports that Washington University School of Law has started a summer program called "Associate in Training" for 1Ls and 2Ls who don't have jobs. The six-week program "is loosely modeled on law firm summer associateships, and includes attorney shadowing, networking, instruction on the business of law firms and other skills training." Tomea Mayer Mersmann, associate dean for strategic initiatives, told the NLJ that it's the first of its kind.

Sounds good enough, but here's what bothers me: The program costs $8,520. Though Mersmann told NLJ that tuition remission is available and students earn credits for participation, I still find the price tag astonishing. Do unemployed students really need this additional debt?

Mersmann told the NLJ:

Obviously, we'd rather have our students getting trained at law firms and being paid. Unfortunately, the current employment market has made it much harder to secure a summer associate position. . . . For students who weren't able to go to firms this summer, this program is the best substitution to learn those skills.

Perhaps I'm too skeptical, but I question whether having a law firm simulation class on your resume will really improve your career chances. Do you really need to pay $8,000-plus to follow a lawyer around a law firm like a lost puppy?


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I didn't realize things were quite so bad out there. As a graduate of good, but not 1st tier law school, I find it amazing Duke and Wash U. law students are having such a hard time. When I graduated from UCONN in the late 90s, in the middle of my class, finding a job was relatively easy.

Umm, this is about US News' rankings, and Duke has the money. Notre Dame supposedly had 40 of its 200 in this past spring's bridge/springboard program -- gee, that changes the the employed at nine months out number drastically, doesn't it? And don't act like they're the only ones -- these schools also understand that they're keeping these students (and their classmates) as potential donors when they haven't been "abandoned to fend for themselves" as graduates of less wealthy institutions may feel.

I bet these unemployed law students were lured to Wash U with false and misleading employment statistics. Then you take advantage of them by charging them $8,520 to work for free? Work that only pads their resume? Have these schools no shame??

I will be attending Wash U in August, & I feel school spirit!

I feel the need to defend the school. No one forces students to pay $8,520. Further, Wash U is generous with scholarships & it offers public interest stipends for 1L summers.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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