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First Judicial District's Judicial Fellowship Program

In January 2011, the First Judicial District initiated a Judicial Fellowship Program for the mutual benefit of recent law school graduates and the Court. The Program, now in its seventh year, was established in recognition that many exceptional graduates from law schools seek professional development opportunities while they search for paid positions in the legal field. The First Judicial District saw an opportunity to give recent graduates professional experience and to provide Philadelphia judges with additional legal talent on their staff to facilitate the Court's commitment to prompt and fair resolution of cases notwithstanding the Court's high volume caseload.

The Judicial Fellowship Program aims to provide high caliber law graduates with substantive experience in the law, and to support the Court in carrying out key functions. Fellows volunteer their time, have the same responsibilities as regular paid judicial law clerks, and gain the benefit of training by judges in the Philadelphia courts. Judicial fellows' service helps our high volume court system maintain its superior quality of service to the Philadelphia community. Judges help judicial fellows by mentoring and providing legal experience that will enhance their competitiveness for paid employment as new lawyers.

Initially, the Philadelphia Court teamed up with the seven area law schools (Drexel, Temple. University of Pennsylvania, Villanova, Rutgers, Dickinson and Widener) to establish, publicize, and coordinate the program. Since the Judicial Fellowship Program's inception, the Court has expanded its welcome to law school graduates from across the country.

The Program has far exceeded our initial expectations. As of June 2017, the Judicial Fellowship Program has hosted 288 judicial fellows from 54 different law schools across the country. 66 judges have volunteered to mentor judicial fellows. The overwhelming majority of judicial fellows leave their fellowship for paid legal positions. In fact, judges have hired 88 judicial fellows to fill law clerk vacancies because the judges appreciate their service to the court and their prior training.

The Judicial Fellowship Program's streamlined and selective application process is a key to its success. It is fast and easy to apply for a fellowship so recent graduates can focus their attention on searching for a paid position of their choice. Prospective judicial fellows apply directly via email to judges with whom they are interested in working. Judges select judicial fellows from those applicants who apply to them directly. This regularly updated website provides a list of judges with available positions for judicial fellows. Each judge and fellow team designs a flexible schedule (minimum of 20 hours per week) that ensures reliable service to the judge but permits the fellow to seek a paid position elsewhere.

One of the advantages of the Program is that judicial fellows do not need to commit to any length of service, which enables them to leave the fellowship with two weeks' notice to their judge once they obtain paid employment. The length of the fellowship is dependent upon when the judicial fellow finds a paid position, some serve for months but some only weeks. We accept fellowship applications throughout the year but most of our judicial fellows begin in September since many employers do not hire law graduates until they pass the bar.

We celebrate when our judicial fellows go on to the paid employment that they deserve and are grateful for the service they provided to us during their mini-clerkship.

Lisa M. Rau
Chair and Founder, Judicial Fellowship Program
Judge, Court of Common Pleas
First Judicial District of Pennsylvania
June 2017

Judicial Fellowship Program - Three Year Statistics
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(February 15, 2011 through April 3, 2017)
Total number of judicial fellows to date: 283
Active judicial fellows: 6
Total number of participating judges: 63
Total number of open fellowship positions: 58
Total number of law schools with judicial fellows: 54
Post Fellowship Positions:
Judicial Clerkship: 88
Law Firm: 77
Government: 23
Other: 54
Non-law Position: 4
No Job upon Departure: 22
No Information Available: 9 Total 277

Fellows who left having obtained paid employment during fellowship: 246

Percentage of fellows who left having obtained paid employment: 89%

Success Stories

Based on evaluations from both judges and judicial fellows, the Judicial Fellowship Program has achieved its mutual goals of benefitting the Court and the judicial fellows. The majority of the judicial fellows who participated in the program during the first year reported they were leaving for paid positions and attributed their success in obtaining paid employment in part to the experience they received from the Judicial Fellowship Program. The judicial fellows have been included in the educational programs that are provided to our judicial clerks which include CLE credit at a token cost. Most of the judges whose judicial fellows obtained paid positions have been requesting more fellows which is a tribute to the talent they have received from their prior judicial fellows. Many of our judges are disappointed because they have not had a judicial fellow.

Excerpts from evaluations vividly capture the judicial fellows' and judges' enthusiasm and satisfaction with the Judicial Fellowship Program.

Comments from former judicial fellows about their experience:

"It is certainly difficult given our current financial situations as recent law graduates to decide to take on an unpaid position. However, I can guarantee that the knowledge and experience you will gain, coupled with the amazing people you will meet and work with will make it well worth it. Additionally, because this is a part-time position, the ability to work a paid position elsewhere still exists. This was an exceptional way to spend my time while searching for a full-time job. My colleagues were constantly letting me know about full-time leads, and helping me to secure interviews. It is an opportunity that I will not forget about, and which was one of my most fulfilling part-time positions."
(Fellow found a paid position)

"The Judicial Fellowship Program definitely turned my life around and helped me in every aspect of my job searchI do not think I could have had a better experience. [My judge] kept me involved in court proceedings and made sure I was busy the days I came into the office. The program is great and it helped me get the job I start in January."
(Fellow found a paid position)

"My experience proved to be an invaluable transition between law school and full time employment. This program is the only of its kind in the country and I think gives essential support, piece of mind, and training to recent graduates beginning their legal careers in a difficult economic climate. I am proud to have participated in the program."
(Fellow found a paid position)

"The Judicial Fellowship Program is a wonderful program that gives recent law graduates practical, real-life law experience while allowing them to search for a full time position as an attorney. It has allowed me to keep my research and writing skills honed during a period when I would have been otherwise unemployed. It is a very important tool to be active in the law field while seeking employment."
(Fellow found a paid position)

"I got an opportunity to develop much-needed skills for a challenging job market. The courtroom and writing experience gave me an advantage because I learned what potential employers wanted to hear in interviews, in that I knew the requirements of a prosecutor/district attorney, their role, and how to interact with various judges[My current employer] has repeatedly told me since hiring me that he was very impressed with how hard I worked by working for free. He also said he was very impressed with everything I got to do in the Fellowship. This experience and my persistent hounding of him to see if there were openings got me a great job."
(Fellow found a paid position)

Comments from judges who mentored Judicial Fellows:

"This is a great program which benefits both the Fellows and the Courts. We already successfully had both Fellows find employment. Their new employers' gain is our loss, but we are delighted to have them successfully springboard into a paid position."
(Both fellows found paid positions)

"She was fantastic!"
(Fellow found paid position)

"The fellows were very intelligent. Their legal writing was excellent and they presented a very good demeanor in a work environment. I still have contact with my fellows."
(Both fellows found paid positions)

Overview

Judicial fellowship opportunities will be posted on this website and will be sent directly to the participating law schools that will distribute information to their alumni. Prospective judicial fellows will apply and interview directly with those judges who are interested in hosting a judicial fellow (see list of judges seeking judicial fellows on this website). Each judge and judicial fellow team will design a schedule that will provide flexibility to the judicial fellow, who may be seeking a paid position elsewhere, but also ensure reliable service to the judge and the Court.

Qualifications

Before you apply, please read the Expectations for Judges and Judicial Fellows which is located in the forms section on this website to make sure you can commit to the expectations for judicial fellows. Judicial fellowships may be awarded to law school graduates from any accredited law school who:

  1. Are applying within the first two years of graduation; and
  2. Submit a complete application to the judge, via email.
  • Fellows will work a minimum of 20 hrs per week.
  • All fellowships are unpaid.
  • Fellows do not need to be barred in Pennsylvania or in any other state.

Application Procedure

Law graduates seeking a judicial fellowship should follow the following steps:

1. Select judges to whom you wish to apply using the list of judges posted on this website.

2. Email the following documents to the judges' listed contact person with the subject line "Judicial Fellowship Application":

  1. Completed Judicial Fellowship Application form (available from the form section of this website)
  2. Cover letter
  3. Resume
  4. Writing sample (approximately 10-15 pages)
  5. Law school transcript (unofficial or official)
  6. A list of three (3) references (one of which shall be a law school professor).

The individual judges participating in the Fellowship Program may request additional information and/or documents from the applicant if they determine that the information is needed to evaluate the application.
In order to verify that an applicant is a graduate of a participating school, all applicants must copy (cc) their respective career offices when submitting their email applications. If applying to multiple judges, applicants need only copy (cc) their career office on their first email application.

3. Judges interested in interviewing applicants will contact them directly and arrange for interviews. Selection of judicial fellows is done solely by individual judges.

Acceptance of a Judicial Fellowship

Once applicants have accepted a fellowship, they must:

1. Contact individual judges to withdraw any outstanding fellowship applications.

2. Notify their respective career offices.

3. Contact the Administrator of the Judicial Fellowship Program, Teresa McNeal, at Teresa.McNeal@courts.phila.gov to notify the Court of their decision to accept a fellowship.

4. Complete the necessary paperwork with the Court's Human Resource Department including a FJD Application Form (located in forms section of this website) and email it to Ms. McNeal in order to be processed through the FJD's Human Resource Department. Ms. McNeal will arrange for the required criminal background check, a FJD identification card and WESTLAW/WESTNEXT access. She will also ensure the fellow is added to the judicial fellows list-serv.

5. It is imperative that the Court have judicial fellows' current email addresses for our judicial fellows list-serv. Judicial fellows are included in the Court's educational programs for judicial clerks (many of which qualify for CLE credit at a nominal cost). We also want to notify judicial fellows of job or networking opportunities.

Termination of the Fellowship

If an active fellow is offered and accepts a paid position during a fellowship, the fellow must provide the judge and their law school a minimum of two weeks' notice before leaving the fellowship placement and transitioning into the new position, and must complete any pending assignments. The fellow should also complete the Evaluation Form for Judicial Fellow which is included in the forms section of this website and email to Teresa McNeal (Teresa.McNeal@courts.phila.gov ).

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