Duquesne law fellowship offers students 'practical value'

| Monday, Sept. 17, 2012

Judy Hale Reed contributed to increasing the racial diversity among judges in Pennsylvania.

She also worked on issues of child safety and immigration concerns in domestic violence cases.

Then she started her second year of law school at Duquesne University.

Hale Reed, 38, spent her summer in a fellowship at The Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness.

She called her experience “invaluable” to her future as a lawyer.

Hale Reed was one of nine Duquesne law students selected to participate in the school's public service law fellowship program this summer.

“I felt like I got to do real work that was valuable almost immediately,” Hale Reed said of her time at the Downtown-based agency, founded by the state in 2004. It implements recommendations from a 2003 study that investigated whether gender, racial and ethnic bias played a role in the justice system.

“And there was practical value in it for me in the short term and the long term,” she added.

The fellowship, which law school Dean Ken Gormley founded in 2010, pays students $3,000 for the summer to work in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

It differs greatly from traditional judicial clerkships in that students can have an immediate impact on the public, Gormley said.

“Traditionally, we think of internships as judicial clerkships for law students, but I wanted to broaden it to all three branches of government,” Gormley said. “This program allows our students to get right in the front door and get very significant positions.”

In the two years since the program began, students have been placed in a wide swath of public sector jobs — from the offices of state legislators and agencies to county and local government groups.

“We're able to pay the students, so it's attractive,” Gormley said. “It means students don't have to work at Starbucks or Long John Silvers to make money and instead they can get experience and get paid a little over the summer. It's a no-lose proposition for everybody concerned.”

Jeff Fromknecht spent three months in the Allegheny County Solicitor's Office in summer 2010, identifying how the updated Americans with Disabilities Act applied to the county.

Fromknecht, 30, who worked at United Cerebral Palsy/Community Living and Support Services (UCP/CLASS) in Oakland while attending law school, said working with the federal law gave him real-world knowledge that he wants to parlay into a career.

Fromknecht now lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., but maintains close ties to the Pittsburgh region.

“While a lot of kids work at (law) firms, I was working at UCP, but I wanted to get some exposure to the law,” he said. “The fellowship was a perfect fit. It was a really good practice run.”

For Hale Reed, the work invigorated her zest for law school.

“In the classroom, you're kind of detached. With the fellowship, I got to use my new legal skills, which affirmed being in school,” she said. “It was useful to me and useful to people I was working for.”

Adam Brandolph is a reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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