Bridge to Practice: Information for Students

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Why participate in the Bridge to Practice?

Duke Sponsored Post-Graduate Fellowships allow Duke Law students who are pursuing post-graduate employment to engage in a paid, substantive professional experience following the July bar exam. The fellowships are particularly valuable for students who intend to launch full-time careers with employers that prefer or require bar passage and employers that otherwise hire only as positions become available.

Duke Fellowships provide graduating students with career development opportunities and financial support while the graduates continue to build their professional experience and network. The goal is to leverage post-graduate work experience as part of a broad job search to secure full-time employment. The program is effective because Duke Fellows: 

  • Continue to build subject matter expertise in a targeted field;
  • Develop professional relationships and references; and
  • Broaden networks for full-time employment.

Bridge to Practice Fellowships are awarded for a three to six month period:

  • Graduates spending their fellowship period with a law firm, business, or other for-profit entity will be awarded a three month fellowship;
  • Graduates electing to work with a non-profit or government entity will be awarded a three month fellowship but will have the possibility of a three month extension. The longer fellowship period is designed to aid graduates seeking public service careers as many government and public interest employers have three to six month post-bar or volunteer lawyer programs as an entry point for hiring and others desire a six month commitment from volunteers.

Potential Fellowship Hosts

Our experience suggests that the following organizations are most likely to act as host organizations:

  • 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations
  • District attorneys, public defenders, legal aid, city attorney offices
  • Judges, as a temporary law clerk
  • State or local government agencies
  • Universities and other levels of academia
  • Small law firms
  • Corporations or businesses

Duke's Bridge program is now in its 15th year, so organizations are familiar with the process and type of relationship with the Fellow that is expected. Certain local agencies in states such as California even have post-bar programs, with applications early in spring semester. In the past, large law firms and federal agencies have been less likely to serve as host organizations.


If you are considering the Bridge to Practice fellowship, you should contact your career counselor for more information. You also should begin contacting potential hosts immediately. To guarantee funding of your Bridge to Practice Fellowship, you should get the host confirmation by April 30.

The Fellowships typically begin in August or September, following the bar exam in late July. The number of hours per week and duration of the fellowship may be modified by you and your host as appropriate to meet your mutual needs.

What We Ask of Students

You are expected to arrange your own fellowship by researching and contacting potential hosts that will provide you with legal experience relevant to your long-term career goals. During your Bridge to Practice experience, we expect you to commit to build upon your legal skills and subject-matter expertise through a meaningful work experience. You also must pursue every available opportunity for personal and professional development, including seeking out feedback and networking opportunities. You will remain in continual contact with a Duke career counselor, updating us regularly on the status of your fellowship and your permanent job search.

Specific expectations will be outlined in your Bridge to Practice Confirmation Agreement, and your continued eligibility for fellowship funding will depend upon whether you meet these requirements.


I feel so grateful and appreciative for the [Law School’s] awareness of the needs of recent graduates. I could not have afforded to just not work or to not get paid at all. And just having the sponsorship of the school — having it be a program and having some stipend made it easier to work with [potential employers]. If you know where you want to be, I can’t imagine a better program to help you get in the door and end up where you want. I don’t think I’d be what I’m doing now if not for it.”

Recent Bridge to Practice Fellow


The Bridge to Practice Fellowship has put me in the position to do exactly the type of work I hope to do and to be able to make a difference in the lives of those who would otherwise not have a voice. Thank you, Duke Law School and donors to the Bridge to Practice.”

Recent Bridge to Practice Fellow