“3YP is the reason I came to DePaul,” says Clint Pierce. Rebekah Gonzalez agrees: “I learned about 3YP when I was researching law schools, and it’s why I decided to come here. I did not see anything like it at other schools in the area.”

The Third Year in Practice (3YP) program allows law students to complete general course requirements in two years and then spend their third year immersed in the simulated and actual practice of law. 3YP students learn and practice professional litigation and corporate skills, while working under close supervision, at a law firm, government agency, corporation, nonprofit organization, or any one of DePaul’s legal clinics.

“3YP is a way to attract students, for sure, but it’s also just the right thing to do,” says David Rodriguez, the program’s director and a clinical instructor for the Poverty Law Clinic. "The first year out of law school is baptism by fire, as new lawyers struggle to do the work. It’s one thing to learn theory in the classroom, quite another to apply it on-the-job, with real-world pressures, deadlines, and expectations. Students who’ve done 3YP can hit the ground running after graduation—they’ll be confident and competitive.”

A Head Start

Rodriguez began planning the program in 2014—along with Allison Tirres (associate professor of law), Leonard Cavise (founding director of the Center for Public Interest Law), and Zoë Robinson (professor of law)—as a way to enable students to perform well right out of school. 

“Anyone can work over a summer, but to have been practicing law for a year while still going to school, that’s rare,” says Pierce, who’s going to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “3YP is real work—real litigation, real legal research and writing, and real time in the courtroom. I plan to be a trial attorney, and this is a great start—I’ll be much more valuable in the marketplace.”

Corinne Cundiff, who will also be working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, agrees that 3YP prepares students for a tough profession: “My attorney friends say the first year is the worst because no one knows what to do, so I like the idea of getting into practice but still having close supervision and mentoring. When we graduate, we’ll be ready to take on more work, right away. 3YP is a great ‘common sense’ idea.”

Putting Theory into Practice

Rodriguez and Barbara Bressler, an associate professor of law and associate dean for experiential education, guide 3YP students to courses and field placements that will serve as a foundation for their careers. For example, students interested in civil litigation learn the fundamentals of pre-trial, trial, and appellate work; those interested in criminal litigation focus on criminal prosecution and defense; and those wanting corporate careers learn about business fundamentals, as well as how to counsel corporations and negotiate business deals. 

Gonzalez is joining LAF (formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago), which helps the poor with legal issues around consumer interests, employment, family, housing, immigration, and public benefits. “3YP will give me practical experience in an area of the law—public interest— where there’s not a lot of time and money for on-the-job training. I’ll graduate having already worked in the field, and that will be of great value to an employer.”

Nelly Rosenberg, who’s been placed with Levy Restaurants, feels the same way, albeit within a different career path: “I want to work in corporate law, and students almost never get a chance to work in-house for a company. 3YP will give me a leg up in a competitive job market.”

The pilot program starts this fall with 13 students.

“We wanted to start small, do some program tweaking, if necessary, and then take on more students for round two,” says Rodriguez. “I expect a lot of enthusiasm next year—among students and employers—there’s a lot of buzz about the program.”

Entrepreneurial Attitude

The applicants who received spots in the program share qualities of focus and drive, as Cundiff describes: “I’ve been very purposeful in my choices. I’ve worked in Chicago Public Schools and completed an internship with the Department of Justice. For me, an externship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office is a natural progression toward a career in government.”

Gonzalez agrees: “In preparation for 3YP, I’ve taken the poverty law clinic class as well as substantive courses that would lay a foundation for the work I’ll be doing with LAF. Everyone in 3YP is a self-starter: We know that the program is a great way to achieve our goals.” 

For more information about 3YP, check out the story in the summer 2014 issue of Dialogue, the law school’s magazine: http://law.depaul.edu/alumni/Documents/spring_2014.pdf