Program Director, Public Interest & Chicago Initiatives
The law can be an incredible tool for change and Notre Dame students know it. In fact, Notre Dame students often make the choice to come here because they want to be “a different kind of lawyer.”
The problem is that it can be a challenge for a job seeker find an open job posting that would allow them to do what they always dreamed of doing – particularly for those interested in public-interest and pubic-service law. At Notre Dame, our students can do just that.
Through the Thomas L. Shaffer and Bank of America fellowships, Notre Dame students literally create their own public interest dream jobs from start to finish. It sounds too good to be true but it is! They decide where they want to work and what kind of work they want to do. They decide who they get to help and how they get to help them. And Notre Dame and generous contributors fund them to do it. The fellowships are like the prestigious Skadden and Equal Justice Works fellowships, but are dedicated to NDLS students.
Take a look at one of our most recent Shaffer Fellows, Audra Passinault. Having worked at an organization conducting advocacy across immigrant communities in Chicago before law school, Audra sought to continue that important work as a lawyer. She dreamed of helping victims of domestic violence, human trafficking victims seeking immigration visas, and increasing access to healthcare.
Audra did not stop when no open job posting would allow her to do all three things. Instead, she created her own job at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, where she now works doing exactly what she came to law school to do.
Audra is no outlier. Since 2011, Notre Dame has funded students creating their dream jobs:
- Addressing barriers to re-entry for ex-felons at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia;
- Providing legal orientation and representation to asylum seekers in Orange County at Public Counsel;
- Serving as a Public Defender for the Project Dawn Court in Philadelphia, which aims to help women arrested for multiple prostitution offenses to become disentangled from the criminal justice system;
- Defending youth who are suspended or expelled from public schools at the Education Law Center in Pittsburgh;
And many others in New Mexico, Colorado, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Houston, Oakland, and Chicago.
After their fellowships, previous fellows have built amazing careers including going on to work as a public defender and then serving as the Freedman Fellow at Temple University, Beasley School of Law and for the vast majority of fellows, continuing to work at their Shaffer host organizations after being hired as staff attorneys once their fellowships concluded.
Do you dream of making a difference in your legal career? At Notre Dame, you can do it.