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IJ’s Constitutional Law Fellowships: Harnessing Young Legal Talent in the Fight for Liberty

When law firms recently decided to defer incoming associates—paying them to work at nonprofits for a period of time before they are brought onboard fulltime during this economic downturn—the Institute for Justice’s fight for liberty reaped the reward and got an infusion of new and dedicated talent. Starting this past August, IJ’s inaugural class of Constitutional Law Fellows—eight recent law school graduates who pledged to work for IJ for a period ranging from ten weeks to one year—began their legal careers “The IJ Way.” Confident that IJ would provide me with exceptional training opportunities and substantive legal work, my law firm generously offered to sponsor my year-long fellowship at IJ’s headquarters in Arlington, Va.

As a strong supporter of IJ’s mission, I was anxious to get involved in its everyday battles for individual liberty. The fellowship program made sure I hit the ground running; within days, I was part of IJ’s legal team fighting against the federal ban on compensating bone marrow donors. Fresh out of law school, I was given this unique opportunity to help abolish unnecessary governmental regulations.
All of the fellows have played important and exciting roles in the development and litigation of IJ’s cases. Assisting with preparation for court hearings in IJ’s First Amendment challenges to restrictive campaign-finance laws, helping to launch IJ’s lawsuit against Virginia’s misguided attempt to license yoga instructors, and drafting briefs in IJ’s fight to save the Community Youth Athletic Center in National City, Calif., from eminent domain abuse are just a few examples.

Indeed, fellows are expected to participate in decision making and trial preparation just like any other member of the famed “Merry Band of Litigators.” And, just as expressing a certain esprit de corps is a characteristic of all of IJ’s litigation efforts, it is also a part of the fellows program. We do not hesitate to help each other out with our projects, and we genuinely enjoy working with each other toward the common goal of increasing liberty. I believe that the strong friendships I have formed with the other fellows will endure throughout our legal careers.

What began as an unexpected post-graduate plan turned out to be a fantastic jumpstart to my new legal career. In its inaugural year, the Constitutional Law Fellows program has provided a terrific way for new lawyers to gain meaningful experience while working alongside talented and dedicated public interest lawyers. The program is proving to be an effective expansion to IJ’s continuing fight for individual freedom.

IJ is now accepting applications for 2010-2011 Constitutional Law Fellows. To apply, email a cover letter, resume and a legal writing sample to IJ’s Special Projects Manager Krissy E. Keys at kkeys@ij.org.

Sarah Eisenhandler is an IJ constitutional law fellow.

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