As they return to Temple Law to begin their final year of law school, ten students will bring with them experiences gained as the inaugural class of Duffy Fellows at Temple.  

Tom Duffy ’81, founder of the law firm Duffy + Fulginiti, first established the Duffy Fellowship at the Legal Clinic for the Disabled in 2012 and this year expanded to include students through a gift to Temple Law in support of the Law School’s commitment to access to opportunity, practical experience, and public interest. 

“Young men and women choose law school as a career path because they want to make a difference, but unfortunately many later become constrained and driven by financial obligations,” Duffy said. “This program helps level the playing field by funding their salaries during the summer while they are learning more about a career in public service. In essence, it funds income, inspiration and impact.” 

Students in their third or fourth years were selected by Temple’s Public Interest Faculty Committee after choosing an organization that met an acute community need and sharing their vision for a legal project that furthered the organization’s mission.  

“The Duffy Fellowship will give our students an opportunity to learn more about the practice of law and master their craft, but even more so, from a community standpoint, it is an incredible initiative that fosters mentorship and public service,” said Rachel Rebouché, Dean and James E. Beasley Professor of Law. “We are so thankful to Tom Duffy for investing in our students.”  

In many of these opportunities, the Fellowships allowed students to pursue a career in a public interest field. 

“I really wanted to do public defense, that’s why I went to law school,” said Noah Stewart, a rising 3L at Temple Law. “Without (the Duffy Fellowship) this would have been impossible.” 

Stewart, who recently finished an internship with the Federal Community Defenders of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said after witnessing loved ones struggle within the criminal justice system, he knew it was a legal field he was passionate about. 

“Sometimes in court, you’re the only one fighting for that person,” Stewart said. “This was something I knew I wanted to do since I was 19 years old.” 

From covering expenses such as rent or groceries, to simply offering financial freedom, the Duffy Fellowship enables students to focus on the needs of their clients rather than the burden of potentially taking other jobs to supplant living expenses.  

Lee Kennedy, a rising 3L who completed an internship working in the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, said the prospect of an unpaid internship was a potential barrier in pursing her passion.  

“It puts the burden on someone like me who wants to do public interest work, who needs to completely sustain themselves and be financially independent,” Kennedy said. “Being able to secure that funding was incredibly helpful.” 

Kennedy, who secured her internship in November 2022, was determined to “make it work” through any means necessary. Thanks to the Fellowship, she said, she was able to fully commit herself to working with clients, rather than taking on part-time work.  

“I was able to work on projects that were incredibly intensive,” Kennedy said. “If I had to take another job, I wouldn’t be able to take on these other projects.” 

Fellow rising 3L, Catherine Plante, was concerned after previously serving as a summer associate at a law firm that she was trending away from her passion in public interest. Being financially independent, the prospect of an unpaid internship was a concern. However, through the Duffy Fellowship, she served with the Child Advocacy Unit (CAU) of the Defender Association of Philadelphia this summer.  

“Working at the CAU has definitely been my favorite experience throughout my law school career,” Plante said. “Personally, it was really fulfilling to have close relationships with our clients … I also got a lot of great legal experience.”  

“(The Duffy Fellowship) eliminated my need to work at a part-time job,” she added, “because I was able to devote all my time to working this summer at the CAU, as opposed to trying to balance two different jobs and getting burned out.” 

For students who are interested in public interest, but deterred due to financial restrictions, the Duffy Fellowship will continue to evolve this year and beyond, as the Office of Career Services at Temple Law is developing a new Comprehensive Professional Development Plan. This program will give students the tools they need to build professional skills, learn about career paths, and identify the core values that make up their professional identity over their law school career. 

“As valuable as classroom lessons are, practical experiences remain a necessary component for student growth in all these areas,” said Jim Walsh, Assistant Dean for the Office of Career Services. “Financial barriers have frequently stood in the path of student exploration of the public interest space, which is why the Duffy Fellowship has been such a timely and necessary part of what we’re doing here.” 

“This summer having worked on civil rights law, working with people affected by addiction, I saw first-hand that this is a viable career,” Kennedy said. “I’m going to do my best to stay this route, because I know it’s possible, and I’m glad I had the opportunity.”  

“I’m just really excited about my career now more than ever.”