Fellowship Spotlight: Jenny Kline

April 6, 2023

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

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

What drew you to the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program?

Applying for the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program was a no-brainer for me. It’s an incredible opportunity to spend a year doing meaningful work for vulnerable populations no matter what organization you work with. I’ve seen how OAD victories in court transform lives, and I’m so thankful I have the chance to work alongside such passionate advocates. I get to begin my legal career by seeing firsthand how the power of a law degree can effect real change. It’s a lesson I hope to carry with me throughout the rest of my career.

Why did you want to work at the Office of the Appellate Defender?

OAD was first on my radar because a good friend of mine in law school had spent a summer there and absolutely loved it. OAD provides appellate representation to clients convicted of felonies who can’t afford an attorney. I had some experience in public defense at the trial level, so I wanted to take this opportunity to explore public defense work on appeal. Because I had no prior appellate experience, I wanted to work at an organization that provides a lot of training and mentorship. OAD was the perfect fit!

What have you enjoyed most about your fellowship?

I have loved the ownership I have over my work. I currently have a docket of seven clients I manage under the supervision of an experienced attorney. I spend my day combing court transcripts and record papers for issues we can raise on appeal, researching those legal issues on Westlaw, and drafting briefs. Outside of the legal work, I also work with OAD’s Client Services team to help my clients with problems they face in their personal lives, whether it be a confinement issue, health concern, housing instability, or probation question.

What advice do you have for a young Cleary associate who may want to pursue a similar path?

I would urge every young associate to apply for the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program! Even if you plan to spend your entire career in big law, the Fellowship still offers you an opportunity to hone legal skills you may not have a chance to develop at a firm for years. I know the legal research, writing, and client management expertise I have developed at OAD will set me up for success when I return to Cleary. However, I remember when I was applying, I worried that I didn’t have enough public interest legal experience on my resume. I would advise any potential applicants not to let that hold them back. This Fellowship is all about learning and growing as an attorney. Talk with previous and current Fellows about their experience at their organizations to ensure you find the right fit for you. Cleary is giving you the unique opportunity to shape your first year at the firm. You have a chance to choose the clients you will serve and select the legal work you will do. It can be daunting to jump into a totally unfamiliar job for a year, but there is immense privilege in that opportunity too.

Learn more about the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program here.