Fordham Law

Fordham Law Helps Alumni During Deferral Period

March 09, 2010

Charles Nerko '09 never expected to work in the chambers of the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, fellow Fordham Law alum Hon. Loretta A. Preska '73. But then he never thought he'd have to weather a recession after graduation either.
 Charles Nerko '09 clerked for Hon. Loretta A. Preska '73 during his deferral period.

Nerko is one of thousands of recent law school graduates facing an economic climate that is challenging them as well as the big law firms that many of them hope to work for after they pass the bar. Some of these firms have decided to cut back on the number of new associates they hire. Others, like O'Melveny & Myers—the firm that had offered Nerko a job after graduation—asked their new hires to defer their start date until later in the fall. Nerko agreed to this deferral period, and before he knew it, he was sitting face to face with Judge Preska as she interviewed him for an interim clerkship position.

Fordham's Career Planning Center was instrumental in helping Nerko land the interview. The Center had encouraged him and his graduating classmates, including Sarah Prutzman '09 and Steve Penaro '09, to consider working as clerks during the gap between their graduation and their deferred start date. Nerko and Prutzman got in touch with Professor Dan Capra, Chair of the Faculty Clerkship Committee, who quickly arranged an interview with Judge Preska for Nerko and with Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Southern District of New York for Prutzman.

Both graduates got clerkships, and both honed their legal skills during their time in the courtroom: "I've been able to participate in many behind-the-scenes court proceedings that will give me a significant advantage," said Prutzman, who begins in the litigation department at Morrison & Foerster in April. "I'm thankful for having had the opportunity to see how the process works."

"The clerkship kept me active in the legal profession during the deferral period, refined my writing skills, and gave me a taste of what was to come in my current position at O'Melveny," Nerko said of his experience. "I have a much better understanding of effective advocacy."

During his clerkship, Nerko helped draft opinions, observed court proceedings and settlements, and received helpful feedback from Judge Preska. Perhaps most importantly, Nerko has been able to incorporate these experiences into his current position at O'Melveny: "I've been selected to work on a case that I would not have been involved with were it not for my clerkship experience," he said.

Nerko is grateful for his clerkship opportunity that he says he might not have been able to obtain at another law school: "I spoke with some of my friends at other law schools, and they didn't seem to be as proactive in helping their graduates during deferrals. Fordham was resourceful in identifying opportunities for deferred associates."

"At Fordham Law, a complete legal education does not stop at graduation," said Dean William Michael Treanor. "We are committed to helping our students succeed after they get their degree, and we redouble our efforts in particularly challenging economic times. Our faculty and staff, especially Assistant Dean Suzanne Endrizzi and Professor Capra, do an outstanding job assisting our graduates with excellent clerkship opportunities."

In Penaro's case, his clerkship opportunity came straight from the professor who was teaching him Trial Advocacy. That professor was Judge Richard Sullivan of the Southern District of New York, whom Penaro ended up clerking for from September to January before beginning his job with Alston & Bird.

"I had never clerked before so I didn't have many expectations going into it," said Penaro. "The experience has helped me with things like court filings and legal writing for my current litigation work."

Nerko summed up his experience this way: "Working for Chief Judge Preska has been an outstanding enhancement to my career. I can't thank Fordham enough for all of its help in facilitating that opportunity."

Contact: Stephen Eichinger