skip to content
Law Firm Fellows

This page is a collection of some of the articles and other media coverage of deferred associates. These articles and summaries were collected with the help of the PSLawNet Public Interest Blog. If you have articles or news that you would like to share, please send to Kelly Tautges at the Chicago Bar Foundation at

Interested in some of the key quotes from coverage of the Deferred Associates Project? Click here.

11.01.10- ABA Journal- The ABA Journal tracked three associates from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett who gave up their $160,000 annual salaries to spend a year working for nonprofit organizations. The article documents their experiences and reveals the new opportunities the associates discovered through their yearlong fellowship. Three associates participated in the program, but only two returned to the firm. For the other associate, the experience he received with a public interest firm led to a new career. Link to the article.

09.24.10- American Lawyer Daily- In AmLaw's "Deferred Associate Diaries" feature, a Class of 2009 law school graduate whose start date at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP was deferred provides an occasional update on his public service placement with the Public Interest Law Project's Oakland office. His most recent entry on September 24th, fourth entry on July 6th, third entry on April 20th, second entry made on February 16th, and his first entry made on December 23, 2009.

09.10.10- Virginia Law Weekly- "Deferred associates often fill a vital need in the legal community, as the economic crisis that has hamstrung private hiring has affected the public sector as well, sometimes more severely. As Dean Getachew put it, despite the potential downsides of such temporary service, 'the overall consensus among public-interest employers is that deferred associates offer invaluable service to their organizations.'" The article focuses on graduates of U.Va but suggests far-reaching implications for the legal market, as firms place deferred associates into coveted public service jobs others competed strenuously for. Link to the article.

09.03.10- American Lawyer- Through its Brooklyn DA Deferred Associates Program, the Brooklyn D.A.'s office is a haven for 38 deferred associates. See the video.

09.01.10- Andrew Sullivan (From The Atlantic)- A post about one law school graduate's thoughts on the incentive for law firms to send deferred associates to do pro bono work, as well as the potentially negative impact of such programs on the public interest legal market. "I was given an offer of employment but was then told that there wasn't enough work to justify bringing me on board at the market rate for 1st year associates. Firms in almost every other industry would immediately tell me "sorry but we need to let you go" and I'd be out looking for work like millions of other Americans. But elite laws firms don't work that way." Link to the post.

08.23.10- Above the Law- At least some deferred associates choose not to return to the firms that initially hired them when called back. This blog post explores the potential for law firms to use deferral programs to weed out associates who would leave the firm early in their careers, as well as the additional benefits to firms that send deferred attorneys to do work at public interest organizations. The author writes, "Think of the deferral programs as the Biglaw version of Rumspringa: a set period of time for young lawyers to explore the great wide world, to test their commitment before they 'join the faith.'" Link to the article.

08.19.10- The New York Times- With their deferral year ending, some deferred associates are reconsidering their options and staying with public interest law despite the pay gap between private firm and public interest work. These deferred associates provide much-needed help for public interest groups suffering from budget cuts and help relieve intense case loads. The deferral process also gives law school graduates a chance to reevaluate their choice to enter the private sector instead of the public interest field. Associates who are called back to the firms that hired them after completing their deferral process carry the lessons of pro bono work with them as they continue their law careers. Link to the article.

07.10- The Third Branch (from the United States Courts)- Busy courts have welcomed unemployed law graduate students with open arms. Many judges who normally receive the help of one or two clerks now also enjoy the help of deferred associates who seek to learn firsthand about the federal court system. "'These associates are people right out of law school, all geared up to be lawyers. Backpacking for a year while they wait to join their law firms is not what they want to do. The ability of the federal courts to offer these new attorneys an opportunity meshed well with our need for help,'said U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs." Link to the article.

5.26.10 - PSLawNet blog - Blogging about Pro Bono Institute's just released preliminary report on deferred associates, PSLawNet noted the report's finding that 97.3% of the public interest respondents said they would take on associates in the future. Some respondents complained that the firms caused problems due to their lack of coordination and communication, and "rigid" administrative procedure. Link to the blog.

05.26.10- The Careerist (Blog from - Response to the Pro Bono Institute's report on deferred associates working in public interest organizations. Both the associates and the organizations they worked for reported an overwhelmingly positive experience, but how does this experience transfer to a law firm environment? Link to the blog post.

5.25.10 - National Law Journal - Released this week, the Pro Bono Institute's report on deferred associates largely agreed with previous accounts that the deferred associates phenomenon was a large success. One public interest respondent said that "[The deferred associates] are a wonderful resource to our clients. Although they cost us time and our logistical resources, we recoup that through their work. It also builds on our relationship with their firms and hopefully makes them into well-rounded lawyers when they return to private practice." Link to the article.
5.13.10 - Dialogue Magazine (the magazine of the ABA Division for Legal Services) - Reviewing the history and statistics of the impact of the 2009 recession, and finding that deferred associate placement has been beneficial to to the actors involved. "[D]eferred associates increase the pool of lawyers supporting the work of government and fighting for access to justice for clients on society's margins." While data on the deferred associate phenomenon is still being analyzed, there is an anticipated decrease in the number of placements in 2010. Link to the article.
5.11.10 - Above the Law
- Kashmir Hill considers what will happen once the "pro bono year" ends and these deferred associates return to their Biglaw firms. Link to the article.
4.22.10 - Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
- Deferred associates Michelle Wheelhouse and Marina Aronchik reflect on their experiences and discuss the skills they gained in their placements at two Chicago legal aid organizations. Link to the article.

04.22.10- Chicago Daily Law Bulletin- An article about how Chicago legal aid organizations see the large number of deferred associates as "a blessing of the bad economy.". Because of the poor economy, the agencies have simultaneously dealt with decreasing funding sources and an increasing need for the legal aid services they provide. Without deferred associates, who are given a stipend by the firms they were initially hired by, gaps in service would not be restored until more funds became available. Link to article.
4.4.10 Chicago Tribune - "The opposite ends of Chicago's legal profession found a way to come together out of economic necessity to partially consume the supply of highly educated young lawyers looking for work. Despite several challenges, the unusual experiment has paid dividends. It also has sparked discussions of whether a more permanent model of apprenticeships can be developed that would train law-school graduates at a lower cost and benefit public-interest legal organizations that are suffering from funding constraints while attending to a greater need because of the recession." Link to Article
3.18.10 - New York Law Journal - In the first national report to assess the success of deferred associates' placements, the New York City Bar initially announced dissatisfaction with the public interest groups' lawyers. However, the bar retracted this statement, saying they had misinterpreted the data and, in a revised version of the report, the attorneys "'were largely happy with their placements.'" Link to article
3.7.10 - Boston Globe
- "Nationally, 43 of the top 100 [law] firms have delayed the start dates of new associates hired last year … and almost all large commercial law firms in Boston deferred the contracts of new recruits." Some firms have helped facilitate their deferred associates' placements in nonprofit or public sector organizations. Goodwin Procter's "Make a Difference" program attracted 86 of the firms deferred associates to work for a year in public service settings. Ropes & Gray's "New Alternatives" program is similar. Not all deferred associates are using public service placements for personal development; one newly minted lawyer who was deferred from Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge competed in the Iditarod race in Alaska. Link to article
3.2.10 - The National Law Journal
- NALP reported that summer associate offers hit a 17-year low and that "more than 60% of those 2009 graduates who were slated to start working at large law firms were deferred. That translated into between 3,200 and 3,700 new attorneys whose start dates were delayed beyond Dec. 1." Link to article
2.16.10 Business Insider Law Review
- In a post entitled "Deferred Associates Loving The Public Interest Life Enough To Stay?," Erin Geiger Smith comments on Russ Ferguson's recent blog in The American Spectator. Link to blog
2.15.10 - American Spectator
- A former Georgetown University Law Center student who enrolled during the "golden era for well-paid corporate legal work," reviews the phenomenon of deferred associates taking public service placements and speculates that, after their exposure to public service work, some deferred associates may seek to remain in those settings rather than returning to Biglaw. Link to blog
2.10 - California Bar Journal
- Deferred attorneys gained experience and career development by interacting directly with clients and the legal process. While law firms deferred associates instead of laying them off as a result of the economy, the pro bono counsel and public interest organizations hope to continue these relationships. Link to article
1.18.10 - New York Times "City Room" Blog
- In a follow-up to a blog post last week describing the public interest placement experience of deferred Ropes & Gray associate Chris Reid, Mr. Reid offers thoughtful answers to questions raised by readers of the original blog post. Mr. Reid's responses address his adjustment to a chaotic practice setting (housing court), the rewards of his immersion into public-interest culture, and how this experience may change his approach to practice when he returns to the private bar. Link to blog
1.11.10 - New York Times "City Room" Blog
- The recession-driven decline in fee-paying work for law firms forced many to defer start dates of incoming associates. In New York City, "…140 prospective corporate lawyers signed up for an unusual new program organized by the New York City Bar Association: Serve the public good for a year, then hop back on the corporate track." One such deferred associate, Fordham Law alum Chris Reid, is spending his deferral period with the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn. Link to blog
12.17.09 - Business Insider Law Review
- In a post entitled "The Strange, Strange World of Law Firm Deferrals," Erin Geiger Smith addresses the changing start dates for associates. Link
12.14.09 - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- The Georgia Supreme Court relaxed restrictions on out-of-state attorneys who volunteer for government, judiciary, or nonprofit organizations, allowing these public agencies to utilize deferred attorneys. One attorney, Taryn Marks, said that she now "[gets] to do all the things behind the scenes and as well as appearing in court." Link to article
11.4.09 - The American Law Daily
- Some deferred associates have been working at corporations, instead of nonprofit or public interest organizations; there, they gain in-house legal experience. Link to article
11.3.09 - New York Law Journal - An estimated 125-140 deferred law firm associates have taken public interest placements with nonprofit and government law offices throughout the NYC Metro region, including Legal Services NYC, the New York City Law Department, and the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, which itself is hosting 35 deferred associates. Link to article
10.23.09 - Washington Post (running an Associated Press story)
- Deferred law firm associates who are taking public interest placements during their deferral periods have fanned out to locations throughout the country. There are potential benefits in these arrangements for the associates - who may reconnect with their senses of professional idealism while honing skills - and the host organizations which are making use of increased capacity to help their swelling client roles. Link (now available on ABC news)
10.18.09 - Philadelphia Inquirer - The deferral periods for class-of-2009, firm-bound law school graduates have begun, and many "highly credentialed legal fledglings" find themselves working or volunteering in various capacities - from stints with community groups and nonprofit law offices to waiting tables - before their anticipated reunions with their law firms. Link to article
10.6.09 - Wall Street Journal - Recent law grads whose start dates at firms have been deferred are taking a variety of approaches to occupying their time during the deferral period. Some must work to make ends meet, while others - many of whom are benefiting from a living stipend offered by their firms - are volunteering with public interest law offices. Link
9.22.09 - New York Law Journal
- In October, 30 deferred first-year associates joined the Brooklyn District Attorney's office as part of a fellowship program. Calling it "the big silver lining of the economic meltdown," the associates are treated as employees and spend time in court that they never would have as junior associates at a big law firm. Link to article
9.17.09 - The American Law Daily
- Professional organizations, such as the Association of Pro Bono Counsel and NALP, have created a free webinar in hopes of providing basic instruction to deferred associates entering public interest organizations. Link to article
9.1.09 - Boston Globe
- The Massachusetts state judiciary is abandoning a plan to allow deferred law firm associates to serve as judicial law clerks during their deferral period. Link to article
8.23.09 - Philadelphia Inquirer - A group of deferred law firm associates is descending on Philly to take temporary placements in a civil legal services community that has been facing extraordinary funding and staffing challenges. Link to article

7.17.09 - TheDeal Magazine - In 2008, Stanford Law School professor Deborah Rhode analyzed public interest institutions and found that 80% of those surveyed worked, at least moderately, with the private bar and relied significantly on pro bono counsel, but 25% of the institutions could profit from more volunteers. One firm's pro bono director identifies several "hard dollar costs" for the incoming "free" attorneys, as well as ethical concerns after decreased funding may have forced previous lay offs of institutions' own employees. Link to article
7.15.09 - The Star-Ledger (New Jersey)
- In the midst of a hiring freeze, the New Jersey Attorney General has created the "Volunteer Associates in Public Service" program, through which unemployed law graduates and attorneys may work - with no pay - for the AG's Division of Law. Link to article

6.22.09 - Boston Globe - Due to expected budget cuts, the Massachusetts judiciary cut dozens of clerkship offers; with the influx of deferred associates from big law firms, the judiciary is considering a volunteer clerkship program and its ethical disputes. An ethics committee approved a double-blind hiring method of the volunteer attorneys. Link to article

6.1.09 - American Bar Association Journal - Three attorneys at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett gave up their current jobs to take a year-long fellowship at nonprofit organizations, assured by the firm that their jobs would still be available to them at the end of the year. Though the fellowship was created in response to the economic meltdown, it was also an opportunity to help people in need. Link to article

6.1.09 - The National Law Journal - "Public-interest law students in the class of 2009 faced a harsh employment climate even before classmates on the law firm track came into the mix." Equal Justice Works' deputy chief executive director, Paul Igasaki, said that the influx of deferred associates would impact those law graduates looking for public interest jobs. Depending on the public interest organization, some want the attorney externs to supplement their existing staff and relieve their caseloads, while others must replace their laid off staff with the "free" labor associates. Link to article

06.09 - Chicago Lawyer Magazine - The influx of unemployed attorneys into the public interest arena resulted in some costs for legal aid organizations, including costs incurred to provide space, equipment, training, and supervision. But the relationship between deferred associates, law firms and legal aid organizations can be beneficial to everyone involved. In Chicago, this unprecedented trend of deferment and attorney layoffs has prompted the Chicago Bar Foundation and the Public Interest Law Initiative, as well as the large law firms themselves, to facilitate attorney placement into the organizations. Link to article

5.17.09 - Time - Considering "the very real possibility that … the deferred job may never materialize," deferred associates use their deferment to hone their legal skills by volunteering at legal aid organizations or taking classes. "'[This delay] will definitely be a setback for the classes of 2009 and 2010, who are now on a collision course,'" NALP's executive director, James Leipold, said. Link to article
5.12.09 - - As nonprofit organizations cut positions and implement furloughs, two Bay Area organizations, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and the Volunteer Legal Services Program of the Bar Association will replace that staffing loss with deferred associates. None of the programs will be cut, but the VLSP will serve fewer clients as it suffers from an 8% decrease in its funding. Link to article
5.11.09 - National Law Journal - Through deferment, law firms hope to uphold their reputations at law schools, maintain their new, talented attorneys, and keep their word; however, "the idea that they will eventually hire those deferred recruits may be a case of wishful thinking." Link to article
4.24.09 - (from The Recorder) - One graduating law student, Colby Freeman, is "worried about the shrinking numbers of hires at some government law offices as well as the specter of extra competition now from would-be associates deferred by Big Law." Across California, district attorneys offices weigh the fairness of these options. Link to article
4.6.09 - Los Angeles Times - Deferments, layoffs, and mandatory furloughs have impacted the "junior end of the law firm hierarchy" and sent them toward the public interest legal organizations. "'The environment of a legal services program is very different from the environment of a law firm, and there will certainly be a need for orientation and training and familiarization with poverty law practice,'" said Karen Sarjeant from Legal Services Corporation. Link to article
4.3.09 - The American Law Daily - The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and Bet Tzedek Legal Services discuss some of the costs incurred with deferred associates, including training, supervision, malpractice and health insurance, and equipment. Link to article
3.26.09 - Time - Described as "creative downsizing in the legal industry," the recent deferrals of start dates for soon-to-be law school graduates serve as an alternative to layoffs; the public interest and legal aid sector will receive help from these deferred attorneys as they experience increased demand for services but there are challenges as well. Link
3.19.09 - (from the American Lawyer) - "As more law firms announce deferral dates for incoming associates, questions are piling up about just how the firms will find and manage the volunteer opportunities they're hoping to send their newbie lawyers off to." In response, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel hosted a conference call between about 40 public interest law organizations' leaders and law firms' pro bono directors. Link to article
3.16.09 - CNN - Some firms have offered to pay laid-off attorneys a portion of their salary to work in public interest. "Foley Hoag is among many megafirms across the country using the economic slump as an ideal time to lend a hand to cash-strapped public interest and legal aid firms." Link


National Practice Areas

Pro Bono and legal aid attorney resources - Pro Bono Net

Are you a deferred associate seeking fellowship opportunities?

You can search PSLawNet!