African Legal Fellows
The Vance Center pursues pro bono practice based on our mission to promote an ethically active legal profession. Our African Legal Fellows Program has been a centerpiece of this mission. Launched soon after the advent of democracy in South Africa, it has sought to overcome the legacy of apartheid by promoting a more racially-inclusive legal profession and to spread the spirit and practice of pro bono legal service throughout South Africa. The program invited South African lawyers from historically-disadvantaged backgrounds to apply to spend a year working in leading New York law firms or corporate legal departments, where they received mentoring, professional development, and an introduction to strong cultures of pro bono practice.
Since 2002, more than 40 Fellows from South Africa have participated and then returned to excel in their careers and share their experience among colleagues, law students and others. The host firms and corporate legal departments also benefitted from the contributions of the Fellows and the networks that they subsequently provided. These included Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Credit Suisse; Davis Polk & Wardwell; Goldman Sachs; JP Morgan Chase; Kirkland & Ellis; Mayer Brown; Merrill Lynch; Morgan Stanley; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; O’Melveny & Myers; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Shearman & Sterling; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom; Sullivan & Cromwell; and Weil, Gotshal, & Manges.
As the legal profession and economies of Africa as a whole continue to develop, the Vance Center has expanded the reach of the program. This year, lawyers from Kenya and Nigeria were invited to participate. Through the renamed African Legal Fellows Program, the Vance Center has placed three lawyers from Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Morrison & Foerster and Shearman & Sterling.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined it possible to be the executive legal and security director of a global company at 36! I am female, African and in commercial legal practice – everything that ought to count against me. It was the international exposure I received through the Legal Fellows Program that made it possible for me to receive this opportunity
Although there is a lot to be excited about at the Vance Center, the African Legal Fellows Program is among the most exciting initiatives. At an individual level, the Program helps Fellows grow their transactional skills and business relationships by working side-by-side with lawyers at New York firms. At an institutional level, the Program builds career-long bridges between New York law firms and their counterparts in Africa. Through this Program, the Vance Center is building a cadre of lawyers across Africa who will have a positive impact on all aspects of the legal profession in their countries, and in particular on public service
The African Fellows Program is a tangible and sustained commitment by the Vance Center and its partner law firms to strengthening the rule of law in Africa. This program directly helps to create a stronger legal profession, more resilient democracies and improved access to justice on the Continent