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Darryl Payton got the kind of spotlight during law school recruiting season that many law firm hiring partners would die for. When Payton went to campuses to talk about his summer associate program, schools staged student assemblies so he could speak. That’s because Payton was pitching a new kind of summer associate program, one created by Sun Microsystems Inc. Payton, director of training and development at Sun, was the only recruiter representing a corporate program on the campuses he visited. As a result, Payton got extra time to sell both his program to students and the idea of going directly from school to a corporate legal department instead of spending a few years at a law firm first. With a legal department of about 150 lawyers, Sun doesn’t have to rely on law firms to train future hires, Payton said. “Ideally, we’re preparing these people so that when they walk out of law school,” he said, “they can come in and begin to work.” Payton targeted his alma mater, Santa Clara University School of Law, as well as Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Colorado School of Law for his recruiting efforts. He got 120 applicants for the company’s first summer program, which played host to six students in June and July. About half of the applications came from Santa Clara University students, he said. Sun brought on board two students from each of the three schools and paid them $10,600 for 10 weeks. Students worked alongside company lawyers in addition to attending workshops on law. The primary difference between Sun’s program and those offered by law firms was the fun factor. Sun didn’t spring for the whitewater-river rafting excursions, cooking classes or trips to wine country that law firms typically host during their summer programs. Payton said his summer associates didn’t seem to feel deprived. He said they suggested more workshops in future years. And they got to do real legal work, Payton said. One student played a key role in negotiating a marketing agreement for the company, he said. “We make a comparison,” Payton said. “In a big law firm, maybe in the fifth year you will have face-to-face contact with a client, whereas in the first year in-house, you will be involved with your clients from the very beginning.” Payton is planning frequent visits to the three law schools to visit with his summer associates and explore other ways Sun lawyers can contribute to educational programs on campus. The company is also considering a scholarship program. “The idea is to have interaction between the faculty at the law school and the lawyers here at Sun,” Payton said. “It’s an effort in terms of developing a presence in the community at large.”

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