First Judicial District's Judicial Fellowship Program

Judicial Fellowship

Overview of Program

In January 2011, the First Judicial District initiated a Judicial Fellowship Program for the mutual benefit of recent law school graduates and the Court. The Program, now in its seventh year, was established in recognition that many exceptional graduates from law schools seek professional development opportunities while they search for paid positions in the legal field. The First Judicial District saw an opportunity to give recent graduates professional experience and to provide Philadelphia judges with additional legal talent on their staff to facilitate the Court's commitment to prompt and fair resolution of cases notwithstanding the Court's high volume caseload.

The Judicial Fellowship Program aims to provide high caliber law graduates with substantive experience in the law, and to support the Court in carrying out key functions. Fellows volunteer their time, have the same responsibilities as regular paid judicial law clerks, and gain the benefit of training by judges in the Philadelphia courts. Judicial fellows' service helps our high volume court system maintain its superior quality of service to the Philadelphia community. Judges help judicial fellows by mentoring and providing legal experience that will enhance their competitiveness for paid employment as new lawyers.

Initially, the Philadelphia Court teamed up with the seven area law schools (Drexel, Temple. University of Pennsylvania, Villanova, Rutgers, Dickinson and Widener) to establish, publicize, and coordinate the program. Since the Judicial Fellowship Program's inception, the Court has expanded its welcome to law school graduates from across the country.

The Program has far exceeded our initial expectations. As of June 2017, the Judicial Fellowship Program has hosted 288 judicial fellows from 54 different law schools across the country. 66 judges have volunteered to mentor judicial fellows. The overwhelming majority of judicial fellows leave their fellowship for paid legal positions. In fact, judges have hired 88 judicial fellows to fill law clerk vacancies because the judges appreciate their service to the court and their prior training.

The Judicial Fellowship Program's streamlined and selective application process is a key to its success. It is fast and easy to apply for a fellowship so recent graduates can focus their attention on searching for a paid position of their choice. Prospective judicial fellows apply directly via email to judges with whom they are interested in working. Judges select judicial fellows from those applicants who apply to them directly. This regularly updated website provides a list of judges with available positions for judicial fellows. Each judge and fellow team designs a flexible schedule (minimum of 20 hours per week) that ensures reliable service to the judge but permits the fellow to seek a paid position elsewhere.

One of the advantages of the Program is that judicial fellows do not need to commit to any length of service, which enables them to leave the fellowship with two weeks' notice to their judge once they obtain paid employment. The length of the fellowship is dependent upon when the judicial fellow finds a paid position, some serve for months but some only weeks. We accept fellowship applications throughout the year but most of our judicial fellows begin in September since many employers do not hire law graduates until they pass the bar.

We celebrate when our judicial fellows go on to the paid employment that they deserve and are grateful for the service they provided to us during their mini-clerkship.

Lisa M. Rau
Chair and Founder, Judicial Fellowship Program
Judge, Court of Common Pleas
First Judicial District of Pennsylvania
June 2017

Judicial Fellowship Program Successes
Application Process for Those Seeking Judicial Fellowship

Press Excerpts About the Judicial Fellowship Program

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