Bridge Fellowships Support Recent UC Law SF Grads Doing Public Interest Work

Bridge Fellowships enabled Aadil Muhammad ’20, Catherine Nguyen ’21, and Mauricio Grande ’21 (left to right) to spend a year doing public-interest legal work after law school.

When Aadil Muhammad graduated from UC Law San Francisco in 2020, he dreamed of working for a public defender’s office, but financial obstacles made that dream feel unattainable.

Then came the Bridge Fellowship Program at UC Law SF, which funded his year-long position at the Fresno County Public Defender’s Office. While there, he gained crucial experience managing cases, interacting with clients, researching laws, and writing motions and briefs.

“It gives you some piece of mind that you’ll have some form of income, and you’ll get those skills so you can bridge to the next thing,” said Muhammed, who now works for a Los Angeles-based law firm representing plaintiffs in employment cases.

Bridge Fellowships show the commitment UC Law San Francisco has to public-interest work. The program, funded entirely by donations, supports recent graduates financially as they do important legal work that benefits society – work that would otherwise be unpaid.

Bridge fellows have worked for state and federal judges, district attorneys, civil liberties watchdogs, legal aid offices, and other government agencies and nonprofits. The program gives recent graduates an opportunity to gain vital experience and connections that set them up for future success. It awards both short-term and long-term fellowships than span from two months to a year.

Gabriel Bellman ’05, director of graduate advising at UC Law SF, oversees the Bridge Fellowship Program for the law school’s Career Development Office. He said because a lot of essential legal work gets underfunded in American society, many public-interest and government organizations rely on volunteers; and Bridge Fellows help fill the gaps.

“The Bridge Fellowship allows graduates to do life changing work and get foundational experience,” he said. “Communities benefit by having advocates who come from all backgrounds and bring diverse perspectives. Many of our students come to law school to do just that, but without Bridge, few would be able to afford to volunteer at these placements.”

Bridge alums have volunteered at more than 60 different placements with nonprofits and in all areas of government. The program also directly helps graduates get jobs. In 2022, 96% of fellows in the short-term program had jobs after their placements. More than two-thirds of those fellows were hired by the placement.

Mauricio Grande ’21 spent a full year as a Bridge Fellow clerking for San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett L. Wong. During his clerkship, Grande dissected legal arguments in cases and made recommendations to the judge. He also observed court hearings and trials, planned case schedules with court staff, and met daily with Judge Wong to discuss pending motions.

“This was a great opportunity to see the inner workings of the judiciary that we may otherwise rarely see in our legal careers, if at all,” said Grande, who started a full-time appointment as a legal research assistant with the Superior Court in February.

Another Bridge Fellow, Catherine Nguyen ’21, said she wanted to use her law degree to serve the community where she grew up in Los Angeles County, but the high cost of living in California posed a hurdle. A short-term and long-term Bridge Fellowship allowed her to spend over a year working as a law clerk for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, where she helped draft new ordinances, review city contracts, and advise city officials on legal matters. She said the experience inspired her to keep doing public-interest work, and she was recently hired as a deputy city attorney by the City Attorney’s Office.

“The Bridge program allowed me to get my foot in the door and provided me with financial assistance to support me after law school,” she said. “Without this program, I would not have had the opportunity to gain such invaluable experience, so I hope the Bridge program continues to grow and provide a resource to students interested in working for government/public service.”

Find more information and ways to donate to the Bridge Fellowship Program here.