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Gilbert Berkeley and his colleagues at Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Morgan Miller Blair felt that Contra Costa County law firms were not doing enough pro bono work — and his firm was among the guilty. So he let himself be inspired by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s fellowship program, which sponsors young lawyers interested in working with the poor, elderly, homeless or otherwise disenfranchised. Morgan Miller recently launched a public interest fellowship of its own, and teamed up with Equal Justice Works, a national nonprofit that creates public interest jobs for law students and new lawyers. The $104,000 two-year fellowship provides a “modest” salary, loan assistance and leadership training to a recent graduate interested in public service. The business and real estate law firm committed $60,000, while Equal Justice contributed $44,000. “It’s not spectacular, but very few firms — especially our size — are doing it,” Berkeley said, adding that he hopes his firm’s commitment helps spread the mood to give back to the community. Among the obstacles preventing attorneys from practicing public interest law are educational debts and a shortage of entry-level jobs, said Morgan Miller partner Audrey Gee, who leads the firm’s pro bono committee. “It is our hope that by removing these barriers, we can help develop deeply committed public interest attorneys who are passionate about their work and will be our future leaders,” she said in a press release. The firm has interviewed four program applicants — most were University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law graduates — and plans to announce its first fellow by December. Morgan Miller is joined by more than 100 law firms, bar associations and corporations across the nation who sponsor Equal Justice Works fellowships, including Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Sullivan & Cromwell; Arnold & Porter; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Davis Polk & Wardwell; Latham & Watkins; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

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