SWLAW Blog | Future Students


September 20, 2021

Game-Changing Yoka-Panish 1L Fellowship

Walter M. Yoka '80 (far right in the above image), and Brian Panish '84 (left of Mr. Yoka),  combined their passions for civil justice and Southwestern Law School by creating the Yoka-Panish Civil Justice Fellowship. Both attorneys are at the top of their game and are committed to mentoring, supporting, and guiding future Southwestern alumni to successful careers.

Brian and I believe that Southwestern students should be introduced early and often to the local civil trial bar community. What better way than a program like this to meet trial lawyers, establish relationships, and be given an opportunity to prove yourself?

Walter M. Yoka '80

This $300,000 endowment places IL students in two five-week civil litigation externships (one Plaintiff, one Defense). Yoka-Panish Fellows participate for academic credit and a generous $4,000 stipend. It can be challenging for 1Ls to get placements - this program was created for them. Getting this type of experience in your first summer of law school sets a priceless foundation for career success. These fellowships are expected to begin in Summer 2023 - students apply in the second semester of their first year.

Wally and I feel strongly that seeing/working for both the plaintiff and defense, is invaluable for developing perspective, civility, and professionalism. The two of us are a living example of adversaries who treat each other with respect and deference.

Brian Panish '84

Even after the ABA removed its ban on paid externships, most still are unpaid. Many externships, especially the summer variety, carry all the time demands of a full-time legal position. These Yoka-Panish Fellows will be able to focus on their work without sacrificing summer income or, worse, having to incur debt to cover their expenses.

The legal employment market remains competitive. Firms expect (sometimes require) even first-year associates to have practical experience. These fellows will have an advantage of not only ten weeks of real-world experience but with working knowledge of the other side. Most civil litigators pick a side, plaintiff or defense, without insight into the other’s perspective. Yoka-Panish Fellows are strongly encouraged to participate in a Judicial Externship, giving them the third point of view in the civil justice trinity (plaintiff, defense, bench).

I want to thank Wally and Brian for their generosity and creativity in establishing this fellowship. Giving 1Ls a 360-degree view of civil litigation promises to produce some of the best-prepared and savvy graduates in Southwestern’s 110 years.

Southwestern's President & Dean, 
Darby Dickerson