The aim of the foundation is to give fellows the freedom to pursue their interests in public interest work.
The Skadden Fellowship Program, described as "a legal Peace Corps" by The Los Angeles Times, was established in 1988 to commemorate the firm's 40th anniversary, in recognition of the dire need for greater funding for graduating law students who wish to devote their professional lives to providing legal services to the poor (including the working poor), the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights. The aim of the foundation is to give fellows the freedom to pursue public interest work; thus, the fellows create their own projects at public interest organizations with at least two lawyers on staff before they apply.
Fellowships are awarded for two years. Skadden provides each fellow with a salary and pays all fringe benefits to which an employee of the sponsoring organization would be entitled. For those fellows not covered by a law school low-income protection plan, the firm will pay a fellow's law school debt service for the tuition part of the loan for the duration of the fellowship. The 2016 class of fellows brings to 761 the number of academically outstanding law school graduates and judicial clerks the firm has funded to work full-time for legal and advocacy organizations.
In its 2010 "US Innovative Lawyers" report, the Financial Times ranked Skadden in the top tier in the Responsible Business category in connection with the foundation, noting that it "ensures some of the brightest legal talent goes into public life."
We wish to note, however, that the Fellowship Program is not a substitute for Skadden's considerable pro bono efforts. As a charter signatory of the American Bar Association's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, Skadden pledges to commit time equivalent to at least 3 percent of the firm's annual billable hours to work on pro bono matters. Our attorneys are engaged in a range of pro bono and community activities. The foundation and Fellowship Program were created to complement these efforts, as we believe there is no substitute for full-time public interest work.
It is the firm's hope that, through their efforts and their example, Skadden fellows will increase and improve the legal services available to the less fortunate in our society. Indeed, there is the expectation that the members of this cadre of new public interest lawyers will, individually and collectively over the course of their careers, have a profound effect on the quality and delivery of legal services. Since the inception of the program, almost 90 percent of the fellows have remained in public interest or public sector work.
Our commitment does not stop when fellowship funding ends — the fellowship is just the beginning. We have undertaken a series of regional reunion symposia for former fellows and extend to all fellows a monthly newsletter, issue-based list serves and webinars.
The Skadden Foundation is governed by a six-member board led by our president, Skadden partner Lauren Aguiar.
The Advisory Committee, made up of 12 Skadden partners and one special counsel, interviews the semifinalists and chooses the finalists.
The fellowship selection trustees — made up of six distinguished persons from outside the firm, one Skadden partner, two of counsels and a second-year Skadden fellow — convene annually to make the final selection for each class of incoming fellows, at a meeting chaired by the foundation president.
For more information, please contact the director of the Skadden Foundation, Susan Butler Plum, at 212.735.2956.