Rasheed Gilmer and Carlos Cisneros Vilchis, two members of Notre Dame Law School’s Class of 2017, are this year’s Bank of America Foundation Fellows.
The fellowship covers the cost of salary and benefits for two Notre Dame Law graduates to work for two years at a municipal agency or private nonprofit organization. The fellows’ work must advance social justice by providing legal services to low-income or other underrepresented populations. The opportunity allows fellows to create dream jobs by selecting the organizations where they want to work and designing projects to complete while at those organizations.
Gilmer will be an attorney at the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice in Detroit during his fellowship. Cisneros Vilchis will be providing consumer financial protection and immigration assistance through the Community Activism Law Alliance in Chicago.
Both men said the fellowships are enabling them to do the type of public-interest work that inspired them to pursue a legal career.
“There are not a lot of opportunities for new attorneys to go directly into the public-interest field,” Gilmer said. “I’m grateful that I’ll be able to do exactly what I want to do, which is to become a people’s lawyer.”
Cisneros Vilchis said, “My grandpa was a lawyer, and he was a big influence on me wanting to go to law school. I also want to help people and decided to pursue a legal career so that I would have better options to help communities.”
Gilmer earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Xavier University of Louisiana. He wanted to go to law school to help people who are suffering from economic inequality. For example, Detroit – where Gilmer was born and raised – is seeing revitalization and rising property values in its downtown area at the same time that the city’s water department is planning to shut off service for nearly 18,000 residential customers with delinquent accounts.
“I thought Notre Dame had a substantial investment in promoting the humanity of being a lawyer,” Gilmer said. “I wanted to be more than just a lawyer, and I thought Notre Dame gave me the best chance to do that.”
Gilmer was president and co-founder of the Notre Dame Law School Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild during his 3L year. The Sugar Law Center is affiliated with the NLG, which has a mission to use the law in service of people by valuing human rights over property interests.
Cisneros Vilchis, who is originally from Monterrey, Mexico, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
He was involved at Notre Dame Law School in the Hispanic Law Students Association, the Business Law Forum, the Health Law Society, and the Intellectual Property Law Society. He spent his first summer during law school as a summer associate at Advocates for Basic Legal Equity, or ABLE, in Toledo, Ohio, and spent his second summer of law school as an intern for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.
Cisneros Vilchis was selected during his 2L year to receive the Peter A.R. Lardy Fellowship – a scholarship award established by Notre Dame Law School’s Class of 1975.