A Bridge to Service

March 15, 2021
Recent alum connects with public service via Bridge to Practice Fellowships

Created in 2012 with the goal to serve as a launch pad to career success, the Bridge to Practice Fellowship Program awards recent graduates with a four-month stipend to fund an unpaid position in government or public interest law. Alums have used the fellowship to fund positions everywhere from an international criminal tribunal in The Hague to the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill.

We’re checking in with a recent Bridge to Practice alumna to see how the Fellowship has impacted her legal career.

Nicole Gibson, L’20

Nicole Gibson, L’20, knew she wanted to be a lawyer from an early age. She also knew that her passion was in the field of criminal law. So her 2L internship with the Petersburg Public Defender’s Office was the perfect professional introduction.

Following graduation, Gibson landed back in the Public Defender’s Office thanks in part to a Bridge to Practice Fellowship. “It was a really good transition,” she said. “I was able to slide right in.” Gibson received an offer for full-time employment, and started as an assistant public defender in January 2021.

Transitioning from law school to life as a full-time attorney has provided a learning curve for Gibson. She’s spent her initial months working on traffic dockets and DUIs, spending time with clients both in court and in jail. In that work, Gibson feels the weight and responsibility of being a new lawyer. “You’re learning with people’s lives,” she explained. “I don’t want to mess this up.”

Luckily, her colleagues have been an exceptional support network. “Everyone I work with has been such a great mentor,” said Gibson. “You’re on a team of people who want to help you learn.”

Without any income, “it would have been impossible to do the internship” which eventually landed her the job, said Gibson. The Bridge to Practice Fellowship “is such a great support structure,” said Gibson – who appreciates not just the financial support, but also the regular check-ins from program director Professor Tara Casey. “She is really the best!” said Gibson.