Step Forward

Step Forward is an on-ramp program for female graduates who are looking to re-enter the profession after extended time away. Over the course of one academic year, a group of candidates work through a modular curriculum that helps them transition to a new professional identity and seek work that is sustainable and compatible with the other demands in their lives.

The curriculum is flexible and self-directed, focusing on seven main modules:

  • Confidence and readiness
  • Self-assessment and goal setting
  • Technology and writing
  • Evaluation of the current legal marketplace
  • Networking
  • Job search strategies, online profiles and resumes
  • Personalized substantive projects

Beginning in fall 2020, Step Forward will offer an online curriculum open to any Northwestern alumna. More information on how to apply can be found below.

Previous candidates have found work at law firms, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the Bluhm Legal Clinic, the ACLU, and mayoral and congressional campaigns. Much of the candidates’ work is flexible, part-time, or shared, in order to accommodate the many demands in their lives.

“After a 6 year hiatus from practice, the Step Forward program has given me access to tailored career advice, a supportive peer group, and the invaluable ongoing mentorship of program leader Kit Chaskin.

I am so grateful to Kit, my fellow Step Forward participants, and the law school for investing time and other resources in women who are on a non-traditional career path.”

Sarah Donoho

Apply to the Step Forward 2020-2021 Program

Candidates must be graduates of the Law School who practiced law for at least two years. If you are no longer licensed to practice law, please let us know in your application. This does not prohibit you from participating in the program, but it does require some extra steps that need to be addressed before the program begins.

The 2020-2021 program runs from September 2020 to July 2021. Applicants commit to attend monthly 2-hour meetings and complete monthly homework assignments. Monthly one-on-one Zoom meetings are also available. We will be offering the program online for alumni outside the Chicago area, provided they have access to broadband and Zoom.

To apply, please write a brief (2-5 paragraph) essay describing:

  • your legal career
  • the factors that contributed to your decision to leave the profession
  • your goals and expectations for re-entering the profession.

Send the essay to Kit Chaskin, Director of Northwestern Law's Gender Equity Initiatives, at by August 15, 2020.

“I could not have found my new position in the Chicago Environmental Bureau of the Office of the Attorney General of Illinois without the support of the Step Forward program.

After practicing environmental law at Sidley and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I spent over a decade and a half focused on raising my kids. Step Forward provided me with access to the tools to brush up on my skills such as Westlaw and LinkedIn Learning. The program also created the opportunity to work on a large-scale project for the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Environmental Advocacy Center which boosted my self-confidence. The Environmental Advocacy Center staff also connected me to others in the Chicago environmental law community which ultimately led to my finding employment. Kit Chaskin’s guidance and support throughout my job search were also essential to my finding the right position.”

Arlene Haas