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D.C. Mayor’s Paralegal Program Gives Second Chances to Returning Citizens

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently celebrated the inaugural graduation of a group of paralegals who enrolled in the Mayor’s Office of Returning Citizens Affairs’ paralegal fellowship program.

The program was designed as part of Bowser’s ongoing commitment to providing District residents with a fair shot and the tools they need to be successful.

The graduates are previously incarcerated men and women who had all become adept at legal work and research through their incarceration experience, but still could not find employment in the legal field because of the tremendous stigma and other barriers resulting from their pasts.

All of them are D.C. residents — with some of whom only recently returned from serving more than 20 years in prison — while a few others came to the program homeless and without job prospects, despite their skill sets.

Upon graduation from Georgetown University’s rigorous paralegal studies certification program, each of the new paralegals signed on to be hired for a full-pay/full-benefit, one-year fellowship at some of the largest and most well-regarded law firms and legal organizations in the country.

“In Washington, D.C., we value second chances,” Bowser said. “As we continue our relentless pursuit of a fair shot for every Washingtonian, we know that we must continually find new ways to overcome the barriers our residents face and create new pathways to the middle class. Our hope is that this program is just the beginning — that it will not only create new opportunities but prove what is possible and serve as a model for future programs for our talented and hardworking community of returning citizens.”

The program partners with D.C.’s Department of Employment Services, Georgetown University, Uber and Macy’s Inc. During the 13-week course, Georgetown reconstituted its paralegal studies certification course, DOES provided soft skills and computer training, and Uber donated free rides for all the fellows.

After completing their classes, and before they began work in the law firms, Macy’s held a styling and fitting event where all graduates were styled and provided more than $500 in professional clothing.

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