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Hoosier attorneys selected for public interest Skadden Fellowship

December 12, 2018


Two Hoosier attorneys that survived a rigorous application process with more than 150 other applicants nationwide have been selected by the Skadden Fellowship Foundation to address public interest issues in their Indiana communities as 2019 fellows.

Jessica Beheydt of Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Jess Hunter-Bowman of Valparaiso Law School have been selected to serves as fellows working with Indiana Legal Services and the National Immigrant Justice Center, respectively, upon their graduation. 

Initially formed in 1988 with a goal of providing e legal aid to those with unmet civil needs, the foundation offers 28 fellowships annually to young lawyers who have a similar passion. Founding director Susan Plum said that from the beginning, the foundation has received “fabulous” applicants from across the country, describing candidates as “the brightest of the brightest working with the poorest of the poorest.” Ninety percent of Skadden fellows continue their work in the public interest field, she added. 

“Most of our applications come from Harvard, Yale, NYU, Stanford, Columbia,” Plum said. “But we’re always looking for applications from the top of the class from other schools, so that we can say, ‘Celebrate your public interest students.’ Those are the people we love celebrating because it sends a message to the students and the faculty and the trustees.” 

The desire to find fellows from outside of the Ivy League was put into action this year with the selection of Beheydt and Hunter-Bowman, who is the first Skadden applicant selected from the northern Indiana law school.

During the application process, potential Skadden fellows are asked to choose a sponsor to guide them for a two-year apprenticeship, if selected by the Foundation. Hunter-Bowman, of South Bend, said he chose to work with the National Immigrant Justice Center so he could provide direct representation to immigrant victims of crime and human trafficking in northern Indiana.

“It is one of only a few organizations that combines quality, comprehensive immigration legal services, impact litigation and effective advocacy on the local, state and national levels,” Hunter-Bowman said. “I couldn’t think of a better place to start my career as a public interest lawyer.”

Hunter-Bowman will conduct outreach and advocacy work in The Region in an attempt to make it easier for immigrants to secure relief for which they are eligible. His goals for the fellowship include serving people in need by providing high-quality, low-cost legal services, while learning how to become the best advocate he can be. 

“I am very excited for this opportunity – a dream come true. I worked at NIJC my 2L summer and found the work very meaningful,” Hunter-Bowman said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to go back to NIJC after my clerkship and join the ranks of the Skadden Fellows.”

For her part, Beheydt will work with Indiana Legal Services in Indianapolis to “establish the Opportunity Barriers Clinic to address the civil consequences of court debt faced by low-income Indiana residents.” Her clinic will focus on re-entry issues including expungements, specialized driving privileges and wage garnishment.

Plum said she is pleased with the 29 selected fellows for 2019, noting that they exemplify the required attributes of empathy, insight and commitment that the foundation looks for.  

“I think these students are thinking it’s now or never. This is such a difficult moment in our society and they really want to help heal it,” Plum said. “It’s quite touching.”

The full list of fellows and their chosen sponsors can be read here.

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