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by Vault Education Editors | November 03, 2009

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Should all newly-minted JDs get the option to spend a year working in nonprofit or public law before starting at BigLaw firms? According to an article in today's New York Law Journal, deferred first-year associates gain more hands-on experience and real-world skills "hitting the ground running" in nonprofits and public sector positions than they might have had they started their associate jobs on time. "They're not writing memos to a partner; they're seeing the inside of a courthouse," Stuart Smith, director of legal recruitment for the Law Department told the NYLJ.

According to the attorney-in-charge of the civil practice at Legal Aid, Adriene Holder, nonprofits, firms and law schools are in "informal talks" about making the year of pro bono work a permanent option by "institutionalizing a program where graduates could voluntarily enroll for a year in a public interest organization and then join the firms."

Although we have yet to see whether these young lawyers actually perform better when they return to corporate law, it does seem like a good idea on paper. But this gap year of sorts also stirs up some important questions about whether law schools teach enough practical skills, and whether public interest organizations with modest budgets and small rosters should be burdened with the task.

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