University of Miami launches graduate fellowship program

In 2009, University of Miami School of Law made headlines when they asked accepted students to take advantage of an incentive program to defer their enrollment until Fall 2010. At the time, Dean Patricia White asked potential students to consider their motivations for entering law school, fearing that many were joining to wait out the economic storm.

Now, the school is making headlines again with a new program, Legal Corps, which will place unemployed graduates in public agencies for six months. Rather than being paid by the firm, participants will receive a $2,500 monthly stipend from UM, so long as they complete all program requirements.

“We believe that Legal Corps is the first serious attempt by a law school to contribute in a significant way to both the enormous unmet need for legal services and the harsh economic realities faced by recent law school graduates,” Dean White said. “We take seriously our continuing responsibility to our graduates and our responsibility as members of the legal profession.”

In addition to performing daily tasks, participants will participate in bi-weekly professional development sessions. UM believes that this will further their legal education, as well as their professional experience. Since the announcement of the program, the school has found nearly 200 potential placements for students. The school hopes to be able to accommodate all qualified applicants.

The program is also being praised by legal professionals including Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

“Opportunities where attorneys have the chance to really help individuals on a personal level are invaluable and the kind of experiences that can shape the career choices of young attorneys for the rest of their lives,” Fernandez Rundle said.

While most UM graduates are still holding out for full-time employment, they are happy that the school has taken initiative to respond to their needs.

“What's great about UM is they're very practical and realistic compared to other schools who see this as an opportunity to ge more applications and revenue,” Irma Kohja, who will graduate in the spring, said. “It's great to know that we've got this fallback option.”