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How Can I Get Credit for a Public Interest Fellowship I Did?

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Question:

I graduated with honors from a top law school. I had the good fortune of receiving a number of offers for my second summer and ended up choosing a large New York firm. I spent my first year after graduating in a competitive public interest litigation fellowship in New York, during which I wrote numerous briefs and argued in court. I am currently finishing a federal district clerkship and next year will be doing a federal circuit clerkship.




The firm where I summered, while holding open an offer to return, has indicated to me that I would only receive class credit for the two clerkship years but not for the fellowship year. Although I understand that I will have been away for a while, I obviously want to receive (and think that the experience warrants receiving) credit for my fellowship year.

My question is how would you recommend negotiating the issue both with my old firm and with other firms that I plan on contacting this fall? Do you think that any firm would be likely to give me credit for the year and, if so, could either accept that offer or use it as leverage?


Answer:

Congratulations on an incredibly impressive background! You should be very proud and I suspect you have a wonderful legal career looming in front of you. But you may not like my take on your situation.

The firm where you summered is very generous in their offer. I think they are being very fair when they tell you that they are going to give you credit for both of your clerkships.

Believe it or not, there are some firms - including some of the major firms - that would only give you credit for one of your clerkships and there are even a few firms out there that would not give you any credit at all.


I understand that your fellowship was competitive and that you were involved in writing briefs and arguing in court. However, it is clear that the law firms do not look upon your public interest litigation experience as being as relevant to their practice as your federal clerkships.

I am not optimistic that any firm would be likely to give you credit for that year but, even if one did, I do not think that you would be able to use it as leverage to get the other firms to change their guidelines. However, if you did get such an offer I would caution you to examine it very carefully before accepting it. You would be making a big mistake if you accepted an offer simply because they gave you credit for an extra class year. That is not something on which to base your decision about where you want to begin your career.


Summary: Sometimes law firms don't give you credit for some or all of your clerkships or fellowships. Learn how you can get credit for the things you did.


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