At the time of the founding of what would become the Freedman Fellow Program in 1974 (then colloquially known as the “grad fellow program”), there were relatively few avenues for practicing attorneys to attain law school faculty positions. Many of those positions were filled by graduates of a small number of feeder schools, who had some combination of law review editorship, federal court clerkship, and good connections. For those who could not make an immediate transition from practice to full-time faculty positions, getting hired by a law school as a legal writing teacher for a year or so offered an opportunity to improve one’s employment prospects by providing time to network and to produce some writing (although a strong publication history was not a market demand in those days).
Temple set out to create a program that would offer as an alternative route to full-time lawschool faculty positions. It was designed as a two-year fellowship leading to an LL.M. degree. Fellows paid no tuition and received a yearly stipend.
Initially, the fellowship was divided into two tracks. The core requirements for both tracks included (1) teaching a section of the first-year legal research and writing course during each of the four semesters of residency (at the time the Law School had no full-time legal writing faculty), (2) collaborating on at least two courses with Temple faculty members (i.e., meeting regularly with the faculty member, attending each class in the course, and teaching several of the classes), (3) participating in a legal education seminar (which ultimately expanded to include participation by the entire faculty), and (4) writing a thesis of publishable quality. One of the two tracks, called the Abraham L. Freedman Fellowship, additionally required the teaching of a simulation-based litigation skills course (Civil Trial Advocacy) and the supervision of law students in the Temple Legal Aid Office. The other track, called the Law and Humanities Fellowship, required the teaching of a law-related undergraduate course in another Temple University school or college. At the end of the 1980s these two tracks were collapsed into a single Freedman Fellowship Program.
For roughly the first thirty years of its existence the Freedman Fellow Program was wildly successful. Almost all fellows desired to get jobs teaching doctrinal courses in law schools, and they were consistently successful. Since neither the skills and clinical components of the original Freedman track nor the undergraduate teaching component of the Humanities track seemed to contribute substantially to obtaining that kind of position, those components were eventually eliminated and replaced with a requirement of teaching a complete upper-level law school course in the spring semester of a fellow’s second year in the program. That, together with the four requirements common to the original two tracks, set the basic configuration of the Freedman Fellowship. The only additional significant change in the latter years of the program was that the number of required collaborations increased from two to three.
What made the Freedman Fellow Program different from other transitional programs (other fellowships, VAPs, and the like) was its emphasis on teaching, reflecting the reputation of Temple’s Law School as an outstanding teaching institution. While the Freedman Fellow Program evolved in ways that encouraged and facilitated the production of scholarship, exposing fellows to a variety of teaching experiences remained its core to the end. The Freedman Fellow Program graduated its final class in 2017.