National Law Journal on Law School's Partnership with Gideon's Promise

Chicago Law Schools Join Public Defender Project

An effort to place young, talented law graduates into public defender offices throughout the South is gaining steam.

Two of Chicago’s premier law schools announced this month that they are joining forces with Gideon’s Promise—an Atlanta nonprofit that trains and advocates for public defenders throughout the South—to pay for graduates to work on indigent legal defense for up to a year.

The University of Chicago Law School and Northwestern University School of Law are the fourth and fifth schools, respectively, to sign on to the organization’s Law School Partnership Project. The effort was announced in November with the American University Washington College of Law; University of California at Los Angeles School of Law; and New York University School of Law.

Each school has agreed to pay the salary of one or more new graduates in a southern public defender office, and that office in turn pledges to hire the graduate full-time within a year. The project is intended to make it easier for public defenders to hire new lawyers while creating a smoother path to those jobs for students...

"From any perspective, this project is a win-win proposition," said Susan Curry, director of public interest law and policy at the University of Chicago Law School. "This program targets a region of the nation that is most depleted of its defender resources, while combining financial support, skills training and career development opportunities to graduating law students who have committed to careers in indigent defense."

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