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Gideon's Promise Launches Law School Partnership Project with Three Prominent Universities


University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) joins first with American University (AU) and New York University (NYU) shortly following

Partnership between Gideon’s Promise, Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), and participating Southern public defender offices and law schools

ATLANTA, November 26, 2013 – Gideon’s Promise, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to public defense reform, today announced the launch of its Law School Partnership Project (LSPP). The UCLA alignment launches the coalition; AU and NYU sign on in relative short order.

A portion of a recently awarded $1 million, three-year grant from the Department of Justice’s BJA  will fund Gideon’s Promise LSPP and help solve one of the critical challenges of public defense—recruiting and hiring talented, third-year law students interested in public service careers. Third-year law students must have a job by late fall to early spring in order to meet bar exam registration deadlines for the states where they wish to practice, but understaffed public defense offices are unable to hold positions open until students pass the bar. LSPP’s solution resolves this dilemma and places dedicated, committed individuals in underserved offices. This program also paves the way for public defender offices in the South to cast their nets wider and recruit potential candidates outside of their immediate regions.

Students participating in LSPP will receive a fellowship from their law schools and a commitment of a permanent job within one year from the public defenders’ offices where they are placed. Additionally, the BJA grant guarantees they will receive the Gideon’s Promise signature Core 101 training: a three-year program that offers tools to provide meaningful representation to public clients under difficult circumstances and learn strategies to resist pressures to adapt to the status quo (quickly processing defendants through the system).

“We always have a laser-eye focus on ways to improve public defense so everyone receives adequate legal representation regardless of economic status,” said Jonathan Rapping, president and founder of Gideon’s Promise. “I’m very excited about our law school initiative because it clears a big hurdle for up-and-coming legal powerhouses interested in dedicating themselves to public defense in the South where the systems are egregiously broken.”

Currently, Gideon’s Promise has joined forces with three law schools (UCLA, AU and NYU) and nine public defense offices in the South. The goal is to expand the program to include at least 20 law schools, 20 defender offices and place 20 law students in their public service careers by 2016.  The organization plans to include more law schools in the coming months.

“We are honored to partner with Gideon’s Promise and to serve as the first law school to collaborate on this dynamic initiative,” said UCLA School of Law Dean Rachel F. Moran. “Our chosen fellows not only will be trained and mentored but will work alongside the dedicated professionals who are leading the effort to revitalize the South’s public defender system and transform our criminal justice system.”

“We are proud to partner with Gideon’s Promise on this very important initiative,” said Claudio Grossman, dean of American University Washington College of Law. “The vital work of improving the quality of public defense is completely consistent with the law school’s mission of pursuing access to justice for all. This partnership will create a concrete pathway between law students and public defense work upon graduation and will be a significant service to communities in need.”

“This exciting new partnership ensures that talented NYU students committed to public defense work secure their dream jobs,” says NYU Law School Professor and former public defender Erin Murphy, “and that some of the nation's neediest communities receive the high quality representation that our Constitution promises, and that every defendant deserves.”

About Gideon’s Promise
Gideon’s Promise is an organization dedicated to assuring that every individual receives adequate legal representation regardless of economic status as mandated in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Gideon vs. Wainwright (355 US, 1963). Through continuing education, ongoing mentorships and strategic partnerships; the organization gives public defenders the tools they need to provide the highest quality public defense in their communities. At the base of the organization’s outreach is its signature Core 101 program, a three-year training program which arms public defenders with the skills and tools necessary to challenge the culture of simply processing defendants through the system. Additional programs and outreach include the Graduate 201 training program, the Summer Law Clerk program, the Leadership Program for chief defenders, the Trainer Development program for public defender trainers, supervisors and law school clinicians and the Law School Partnership Project.  Gideon’s Promise has grown from 16 lawyers trained at inception to nearly 250, each working with an annual average of 200 clients. The organization was featured recently in an HBO documentary, “Gideon’s Army.” For more information, visit www.gideonspromise.org, Facebook.com/GideonsPromise or Twitter: @Gideons_Promise.

About UCLA School of Law
Founded in 1949, UCLA School of Law is the youngest major law school in the nation and has established a tradition of innovation in its approach to teaching, research and scholarship. With approximately 100 faculty and 1,100 students, the school pioneered clinical teaching, is a leader in interdisciplinary research and training, and is at the forefront of efforts to link research to its effects on society and the legal profession. For more information, visit www.law.ucla.edu.

About American University Washington College of Law
In 1896, American University Washington College of Law became the first law school in the country founded by women. More than 100 years since its founding, this law school community is grounded in the values of equality, diversity, and intellectual rigor. The law school's nationally and internationally recognized programs (in clinical legal education, trial advocacy, international law, and intellectual property to name a few) and dedicated faculty provide its 1700 JD, LL.M., and SJD students with the critical skills and values to have an immediate impact as students and as graduates, in Washington, DC and around the world. For more information, visit wcl.american.edu.


About NYU Law
Founded in 1835, New York University School of Law has a long record of academic excellence, national scholarly influence and innovative achievements. It has been a pacesetter in legal education, pioneering new approaches to practical-skills training and recognizing early on that law has an increasingly global dimension to which all students should be exposed in the classroom. Its innovative lawyering, clinical and advocacy programs; interdisciplinary colloquia; public interest initiatives; and law-and-business transaction courses have served as models for other law schools. For more information, visit www.law.nyu.edu.