Fellowship Spotlight: Tyler Ross

July 11, 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.

Tyler Ross, a current Fellow at The Legal Aid Society, shares some of his thoughts about the experience thus far.

What drew you to the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program?

I knew I wanted to work directly with clients, and because I focused on criminal law in law school, I literally jumped at the opportunity to be able to work as a public defender on behalf of New Yorkers who cannot afford to hire an attorney. The Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program is really an unparalleled way to develop your skills as an attorney just out of law school and has given me opportunities I never would have had otherwise.

Why did you want to work at The Legal Aid Society?

The Legal Aid Society is the oldest and largest provider of legal services in the country and is the primary provider of indigent criminal defense in New York City. Given the work I wanted to do with the Fellowship, the Legal Aid Society was a natural choice. I was also drawn to the Legal Aid Society because of the robust training they offer to all new criminal defense trial attorneys, which gave me the skills and knowledge I needed to provide effective services for my clients.

What have you enjoyed most about your fellowship?

This is a tough question! There’s so much I could talk about. I think, first and foremost, I have been humbled by just how appreciative my clients are to have someone who listens to them, represents them, and goes to bat for them. I have also truly enjoyed getting to know and learning from my colleagues, who are all so passionate about the work they do—some of whom have been working at Legal Aid for decades—despite low pay, crushing caseloads, and the emotional toll that is part of the job. Finally, I am so appreciative of the opportunities I’ve had to be in court, making arguments for my clients on the record, and even assisting with an acquittal at trial.

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

Find pro bono cases that will allow you to work directly with clients and offer the opportunity to be in court! I have developed so many skills through talking to clients, being in court regularly (which is no longer terrifying!), and being in charge of my own caseload. I’ve also gained a lot of practical knowledge about the New York court system and New York criminal law. Altogether, I am certain I will be going back to Cleary a much stronger and more capable professional than I would have without the fellowship. Plus, there’s no substitute for knowing that you’ve made a small, but meaningful, difference in someone’s life because you won a favorable outcome for them in court.

Learn more about the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program here.