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Attorney mentoring programs are a dime a dozen, but the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity hopes to break the mold by singling out up-and-coming attorneys and placing them in the direct path of law firm managing partners and the general counsel of some of the country’s largest companies. The council’s Fellows Program is intended to help diversify the legal profession by producing attorneys with strong leadership and networking skills who enjoy relationships with industry leaders — and who are committed to fostering diversity within their individual institutions. The council was scheduled to launch the program over the last weekend with a gathering in New York of more than 100 fellows, to rub elbows with the various managing partners and general counsel involved. “This concept is not new, but the group we have involved is different,” said Roderick Palmore, general counsel of General Mills Inc. and the chairman of the council. “We’ve got the leadership of impactful organizations as well as law firm leaders. These are the people making up the faculty of the program.” Coca-Cola Co. General Counsel Geoffrey Kelley and Macy’s Inc. General Counsel Dennis Broderick are among those who were slated to teach segments of the program, Palmore said. The council was formed in 2009 with the goal of promoting diversity throughout the legal profession by involving top leaders at firms and legal departments. The group includes about 100 firms and 65 corporations, and the fellows program is its highest-profile initiative to date. The council spent the past year ironing out the concept and details of the program, which is highly structured, said Gregory Jordan, managing partner of Reed Smith and co-chairman of the group’s talent development committee. Fellows were selected by member organizations: Firms were limited to one fellow each, while legal departments could select two. Nominees were not limited to women or minorities, however. “We’re looking for high-potential, high-impact people in their institutions,” Jordan said. “People with a knack for leadership. People who can take what they’re learning and all their networking back to their organization.” Palmore stressed that the program is not intended to teach participants to be good lawyers, since that’s a base requirement. Rather, the purpose is to instill the skills, beyond a firm grasp of the law, necessary for success in the legal industry, he said. The program has several components, including three in-person conferences throughout the year. Fellows will undergo virtual training covering topics such as what managing partners need from attorneys and how to pitch legal services to general counsel. Managing partners and general counsel will discuss their own professional experiences and setbacks with fellows. Finally, fellows will work together in small groups on a specific project throughout the year that will address an actual legal problem within an organization. Fellows will be paired with a coach from a council member organization after they complete the year-long program. That coach will offer career advice. “It didn’t take much for me to realize the value of the program,” said Rana Wright, a senior associate at Reed Smith who is one of the inaugural fellows. “It’s an opportunity to learn from the best in the profession.” Wright said that she hopes to learn many of the leadership skills they don’t teach in law school, such as project management and how to structure an alternative fee arrangement. She looks forward to mentoring attorneys within Reed Smith after she completes the program. “I’m a diverse woman,” said Wright, who is black. “I think it’s important to be active in firm culture and be visible.” The plan is for a new set of fellows to cycle through the program each year. “Obviously, what we’re trying to do is impact the future,” Palmore said. “Just about everyone acknowledges that the current state of the profession is disappointing.”

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