Fellowship Spotlight: Amira Perryman

April 28, 2022

The Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program places associates at legal services or nonprofit organizations for one year, providing critically needed legal work to underserved communities.

Amira Perryman, a current Fellow at the Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD), shares some of her thoughts about the experience thus far.

Why did you choose to join Cleary initially?

I initially decided to join Cleary because of the firm’s complex legal work, and the fact that people at the firm genuinely care for one another and their clients. While interviewing and working as a summer associate at Cleary, I was struck not only by the quality of lawyers, but also their passion for their work and their desire to positively impact the world we live in. At Cleary, I saw people and careers that I wanted to emulate. I have continued to be impressed by the firm’s dedication to investing in young lawyers.

What drew you to the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program?

Throughout law school, I felt immense pressure to either go to a firm or into public interest work. These choices were presented as mutually exclusive. I was drawn to the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program because it seemed like an unparalleled opportunity to do both—to serve people in my community and to stay engaged with the Firm. 

How did you get paired with The Office of the Appellate Defender?

I knew I wanted to pursue criminal defense. I wanted the opportunity to advocate for individuals while developing my research and writing skills. The Office of the Appellate Defender has an outstanding reputation for training young lawyers and, so far, OAD has exceeded that reputation. 

Can you provide an overview of the type of work you are doing at OAD?

OAD handles direct felony appeals in both the Bronx and Manhattan. I review transcripts of the cases, identify legal issues and injustices at the trial or within the plea, research and write briefs, all while building and maintaining a relationship with the client.

What has surprised you most about the fellowship?

I was surprised by how much I have been able to do in such a short amount of time. For example, in my first few weeks, I was given clients and started immediately working on their cases. I am immensely grateful to be doing direct client work so early in my career, and hope to continue doing this kind of work throughout my career.

What kinds of challenges have you faced during your fellowship?

Every day, we see how the criminal legal system targets Black and Brown people in this country. In law school, we often discussed inequities in the criminal justice system. However, this pales in comparison to witnessing and experiencing it every day as a client advocate. I have found it difficult—but incredibly rewarding—to try and shine a light on these issues while thinking through how to help a client when legal remedies fall short.

What skills have your learned at OAD that have served you well?

I have been able to continue to develop my research and writing skills and have received frequent and detailed feedback from supervisors, which has been immensely helpful.

What advice do you have for a First Year Cleary Associate who may want to pursue a similar path?

Do not be afraid to ask for what you want and to advocate for yourself. I knew I was interested in criminal defense and am now doing just that! Whatever your interests are, do not be shy. Let people know what you are interested in, so they can help you.

What are you looking forward to most upon your arrival at Cleary?

This Fellowship and my work at OAD are only the beginning of my legal career. While I have seen and done so much already, I know I still have a lot to learn. I am excited to learn from all of the experienced lawyers at Cleary and apply the research, writing and client skills that I have developed at OAD to the complex commercial litigation issues Cleary is known for.

Learn more about the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program here.