Under our global Pro Bono Fellowship Program, Sidley sponsors fellowships in several of our U.S. offices, as well as our London office. In 2022, our U.S. and UK fellows devoted 9,300+ hours to their fellowships.
Sidley sponsors several fellowships that expand the capacity of legal nonprofits to advance their missions and serve the critical legal needs of clients. Through the Incoming Associates Pro Bono Fellowship Program and the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Fellowship Program, recent law school graduates are paid their full Sidley salary to work at legal nonprofit organizations for up to 10 weeks before joining the firm. Sidley also sponsors a year-long Sidley Austin Appellate Advocacy Fellowship in the Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.
In London, all final seat trainees are invited to apply for a fellowship for up to 12 weeks in a charity or nonprofit organization, prior to commencing their roles as newly qualified associates.
“My PILI Fellowship organization, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), provides legal advice and representation to survivors of sexual harm in both criminal and civil matters. My PILI Fellowship with CAASE was the highest privilege, allowing me to both support individual survivors and to strengthen strategies for changing how the system interacts with survivors of sexual violence. During my Fellowship, I was constantly reminded of the meaningful work that lawyers are uniquely prepared to do and the importance of never losing sight of that work. I will carry that reminder with me throughout my career.”
“My PILI Fellowship with the Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts gave me the opportunity to work with a wide team of lawyers, policy advocates, and researchers on critical issues that have the potential to affect everyone living in Chicago and that can dramatically shape people’s experiences with the legal system. It was an excellent way to begin my career and provided the opportunity for me to develop important skills that have helped me develop as a lawyer.”
“I am truly grateful to have been a PILI Fellow at Legal Aid Chicago, which provides free civil legal services to low-income people in Cook County. While working in Legal Aid Chicago’s Public Benefits Practice Group, I assisted experienced attorneys in defending clients at risk of losing public benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP, or Social Security. My work included drafting briefs, conducting legal research, and helping lawyers prepare for oral arguments. This practical experience allowed me to meaningfully contribute to our community and was highly valuable at the start of my legal career.”
“As a PILI Fellow at the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, I had the opportunity to serve vulnerable communities in an area that is particularly overlooked even among the general scarcity of legal resources: business services and entrepreneurship support. I was able to help small businesses in Chicago’s Southside navigate city ordinances, negotiate supplier and independent contractor agreements, and find legal solutions to implement innovative business models and initiatives for neighborhood investment and invigoration. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to help people build their futures and accomplish their dreams while uplifting their communities in the process!”
“My PILI fellowship with the Federal Defender Program was an incredible experience. It allowed me to work with experienced and talented lawyers to help ensure that all people, regardless of their wealth or income, receive excellent legal representation. I was able to work on a number of different criminal matters, including a high-profile trial during which I was in court nearly every day for a month. The experience I gained during my time at the Federal Defender Program has already proven to be invaluable during my first year at Sidley, and I highly recommend the fellowship. I cannot imagine a better way to begin your legal career, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”
“Not Beyond Redemption is a charity that provides free family legal advice and representation to women in prison, or who have left prison. During my fellowship, I advised these mothers, managed court proceedings on their behalf, worked with pro bono barristers to prepare for hearings, and got a valuable insight into the administration of an expanding charity. Not Beyond Redemption gives these women hope in the darkest of times; hope to build a better relationship with their children and hope for a better future for themselves. Even small victories in NBR cases make a big difference to the lives of these women and their children.”
“I am incredibly grateful to the London litigation team for the opportunity to work with JUSTICE’s excellent team during my fellowship. JUSTICE is a law reform and human rights charity, working to reform the UK justice system with a focus on the most vulnerable and marginalised in society. My work at JUSTICE included attending briefings with civil servants from the MoJ and HMCTS on Benefits Reform, working on a report that summarises the issues with the proposed Bill of Rights Bill, and drafting a speech for Lord Dyson on these changes. I was also able to assist with scoping a project on the Rule of Law and how cumulative legislative changes have weakened this fundamental constitutional tenet. Overall, the fellowship was enormously gratifying and provided me with valuable legal training.”
Each year, the London office awards a prize for pro bono services to recognize exceptional contributions. The 2022 prize went to Alex Down, a managing associate in the Employment group, who said:
“The breadth and quality of the pro bono work available at Sidley is deeply impressive and I am very grateful to have been actively encouraged to take up a variety of pro bono matters over the past year. Not only is the work meaningful and rewarding but it has also allowed me to develop my practice by working with a number of clients in the third sector. I have donated my prize in full to my local homeless charity in Buckinghamshire, Wycombe Homeless Connection. They are a small charity who work tirelessly and rely heavily on personal donations, particularly over the winter when they are stretched very thin to meet the increased needs of the community caused by the freezing temperatures and cost of living crisis.”
“Working at Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law impact litigation program was a formative experience that will stick with me my entire career. The fellowship allowed me to work on pressing homelessness and family reunification issues, gave me early client contact experience, and introduced me to brilliant attorneys and staff. I was able to continue working on my pro bono matters at the firm, and they have resulted in positive life changes for multiple clients.”
“I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project during my fellowship. Working alongside Public Counsel’s lawyers was a masterclass in litigation strategy, drafting, and advocacy. I cannot say enough positive things about the lawyers I worked alongside, the work that they are doing at Public Counsel, and the incredible opportunities they gave me — even as a short-term fellow. This was an amazing start to my legal career and an opportunity that I will not soon forget.”
“I had the privilege to spend 10 weeks as a pro bono fellow at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). As a child of Latino immigrants and a Mexican-American, it was deeply rewarding to contribute to the vital work the lawyers at MALDEF are doing to protect the rights of Latinos, and immigrants more broadly, across the United States. Thanks to this program, I was able to form lasting social and professional bonds with the staff lawyers, and I look forward to continuing to contribute to their work as a part of my pro bono practice here at Sidley.”
“To start my legal career, I worked as a Sidley Pro Bono Fellow at the ACLU of Southern California as a member of their Immigrants’ Rights team. I had an opportunity to work with a group of highly experienced lawyers on various right to counsel and asylum eligibility cases. The work was challenging but meaningful, and I felt proud to be part of a team dedicated to making a positive impact in people’s lives. Where individuals are still being denied their basic constitutional rights, it is crucial to help marginalized communities access justice and protect their rights. Sidley’s Pro Bono Fellowship is a reminder that legal work possesses a tangibility to generate change, and I look forward to continuing to contribute to Sidley’s pro bono practice.”
“As a Pro Bono Fellow at ACLU, I supported legislative efforts at the state and federal levels to reform the criminal justice system. The fellowship provided me the opportunity to hone my persuasive writing and advocacy skills while learning about a new area of law and policy at one of the largest and most well-respected non-profit organizations in the country. I am so grateful to Sidley for making my fellowship possible!”
“I am profoundly grateful for the wonderful experience that I had working as a Sidley Pro Bono Fellow at the ACLU of Washington, D.C. I worked closely with a team of inspiring and dedicated lawyers, from whom I had the chance to learn more about the mechanics and strategy of impact litigation. I had the opportunity to work on a range of complex civil rights issues, draft briefs, and creatively research novel issues of law. This was an extraordinary fellowship, and I am so thankful to Sidley for making it a possibility for me.”
“Working at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund was an opportunity of a lifetime as I’ve admired the organization for many years, and had always wanted to work with them as a law student. Through Sidley’s Pro Bono Fellowship program, I spent 10 weeks acquiring substantive legal experience while working with one of the premier civil rights organizations in our nation’s history and present. Many firms exclaim their commitments to pro bono, but I don’t know of any firm that would allow and encourage their associates to start their career with the firm as a Pro Bono Fellow for another organization, which is a testament to the kind of firm Sidley is.”
“Thanks to Sidley’s Pro Bono Fellowship, I had the privilege to work at Everytown Law, an organization dedicated to advancing gun safety in the courts and through the civil and criminal justice systems. While at Everytown, I worked with and learned from a brilliant group of lawyers on a variety of matters. Specifically, I conducted legal research, helped prepare the team for a deposition, and drafted an amicus brief and section of a court brief. Not only was this experience extremely rewarding, but it also fostered skills and relationships that will last throughout my legal career.”
“I’m grateful to Sidley for letting me spend the first ten weeks of my legal career at Legal Aid DC. There, I got to help draft an appellate brief, to assist in the preparation for a fascinating argument before the DC Court of Appeals, and to develop meaningful personal and professional relationships with dedicated colleagues. My Legal Aid training made me a better advocate for the pro bono clients I serve now at Sidley.”