Jennifer Eldridge, a first year associate in DLA Piper’s Chicago office, has big aspirations for the next 12 months: She hopes to assist domestic violence victims, file asylum paperwork for refugees, and help some past offenders clear their juvenile criminal records.
It’s a bit different than the standard associate workload because Eldridge is one of two recipients of DLA Piper’s Krantz Fellowship, which gives her an entire year to only work on pro bono projects.
“I’m really looking to get some litigation experience,” said Olga Slobodyanyuk, the other recipient of the fellowship. “You get to run your own discovery, potentially go to trial, talk to opposing counsel, have your own practice going. That’s a great experience.”
Olga Slobodyanyuk is a graduate of Harvard Law School and an alumna of HLS’s Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. As a student, she volunteered legal services with the Tenant Advocacy Project, a Student Practice Organization, whose mission is to provide student supervision while representing tenants of and applicants to public and subsidized housing at administrative hearings at housing authorities throughout the greater Boston area.
With around 4,000 lawyers and 90 offices around the world, DLA Piper is taking advantage of its vast resources and allowing two associates to spend a year working on pro bono projects. There’s no contract that requires the associates to stay at the firm at the end of the year, but DLA Piper believes the investment will help groom the associates and claims it’s the only firm offering associates a full year of pro bono work at the same salary. Overall, it placed 28th on The American Lawyer’s 2016 national pro bono ranking, with its lawyers clocking an average of 73.3 hours per week — the firm has said the average for associates is actually higher.
It’s not alone in its pro bono efforts: other firms including Arnold & Porter, Paul Hastings and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, offer programs that allow summer associates to split their time between firm and public interest. Hogan Lovells offers first-year associate four-month pro bono rotations, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom offers externships with the Legal Aid Society’s Community Law Office and Lawyers Alliance for New York.