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Summer associates aren’t just for law firms anymore. This summer, seven local law students are working as interns in the corporate legal departments of D.C.-area companies, the inaugural class of the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association’s new Corporate Scholars Program. The law student interns are spending at least eight weeks observing and experiencing the role that in-house counsel play in the operation of an organization. The program provides a way to introduce law students to a career option about which they might not have much information. The students can see what it is like to have a proactive role in making company policies and business decisions, to be a lawyer with a “seat at the table.” Seasoned lawyers can become mentors to these students, helping to create a pipeline of future in-house lawyers. And if the students never pursue an in-house career, they will still be more knowledgeable and effective law firm lawyers who are better able to service their in-house clients. This is the vision that motivated the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association to create the program. WMACCA is the Washington metro area chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel. With more than 1,000 members in a wide variety of companies, associations, and other private-sector organizations in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia, WMACCA plays a significant role in the professional lives of in-house counsel in this area. The Corporate Scholars Program was made possible by seed money provided by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. In June 2003, MCCA gave WMACCA a grant for a diversity initiative. The grant coincided with the recognition by WMACCA’s then president, Robert Stern, general counsel of Sodexho Inc., of the need to create resources within WMACCA to promote diversity in our member organizations. WMACCA had recently formed a diversity forum — a local committee — to present substantive programs that address issues faced by counsel from diverse backgrounds. In addition, the forum provides networking opportunities, creating an environment where members can develop relationships that could help them address diversity issues that might arise. Stern hoped that WMACCA could use the MCCA grant for an outreach project to law students. The co-chairs of WMACCA’s diversity forum, Vanessa Allen and Brandon Fitzgerald, began brainstorming about possible projects with WMACCA board member Julienne Bramesco of Kaiser Permanente and Ilene Reid, the chapter’s executive director. After much thought, they formulated the idea of having a summer internship program open to students from all the D.C.- and Baltimore-area law schools — American, Catholic, George Mason, Georgetown, George Washington, Howard, the University of Baltimore, the University of the District of Columbia, and the University of Maryland. The MCCA grant would be used to provide students with modest stipends. In addition to providing internship experiences, WMACCA envisions its scholars program as a way to create a “diversity pipeline” for in-house practice. The program aims to provide opportunities to populations within law schools that may lack access to and/or knowledge of in-house legal practice. WMACCA’s view of diversity is very broad, encompassing not only the ideas of gender, race, and ethnicity, but also concepts of socioeconomic background and the student’s individual education and career path. The first step in creating the scholars program was to contact the career services offices of the local law schools to determine whether students would be interested. Each school felt that students would be excited to have this opportunity. Then, WMACCA needed to make sure that member companies would host interns. Often, in-house departments have been reluctant to take on interns because they are not sure they will have an appropriate level of work for a law student, or they are concerned that they cannot provide the level of supervision and feedback that the student needs. At the beginning of 2004, WMACCA sent letters soliciting internships to all its members who were chief legal officers at their companies. The only requirements — that companies commit to providing a strong and substantive experience, and agree to have the intern for at least eight weeks. WMACCA was not sure how members would respond to the initiative, but hoped to net at least five internships. The response was terrific — and gratifying — as WMACCA received offers for many more internships than it could fill with the MCCA funding. Many of the organizations offering internships told WMACCA how well this program dovetailed with their corporate and departmental diversity initiatives. A number also had prior experience with interns, which WMACCA felt would help ensure that the participants would get a valuable experience. In addition, WMACCA was excited by the variety of the internships offered — different industries were represented, with nonprofits as well as for-profits, and there were many different sizes of organizations and legal departments. Further, the participating corporations confirmed that they could provide exposure to a variety of substantive legal areas. It was a good, representative “cut” of the in-house community. In light of this response, WMACCA decided that it would like to offer more internships than the MCCA grant could fund. It turned to its colleagues and friends at local law firms and asked them for sponsorship assistance. The firms would sponsor WMACCA’s spring networking event, and proceeds from the event would be added to the MCCA grant to allow WMACCA to expand the number of internships it otherwise could have provided. WMACCA thanks these sponsors for their support: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Arent Fox; Baker & McKenzie; Coudert Brothers; Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky; Greenberg Traurig; Jones Day; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; Shapiro, Lifschitz & Schram; Venable; and Wiley Rein & Fielding. WMACCA then enlisted an independent consultant, Crystal Gothard, who was referred to WMACCA by MCCA, to assist with the development of an application. WMACCA settled on an application that required students to submit information about their undergraduate career, a copy of their law school transcript, a writing sample, a personal essay, and a letter of reference. Application forms and announcements about the program were sent to all the targeted law schools, which took the lead in publicizing the program to their students. WMACCA received many strong applications from each of the law schools in the Washington metro area. Gothard did an initial screen of the applications. WMACCA directed her to select students whose academics were strong — solid grades, strong writing skills, and some previous experience in a professional environment (whether through school programs or previous jobs). It was also important that the interns come from groups that might be underrepresented in the legal profession (in keeping with the broad definition of diversity), and might have some financial need for the internship. The two top candidates selected by Gothard from each school were interviewed by WMACCA. WMACCA believed that an interview was necessary to ensure that it made a complete assessment of the students. It was important to WMACCA that its corporate scholars evidence the professional maturity to thrive in an in-house internship. We understood that you could not begin to assess these traits by simply reviewing a transcript or a writing sample. The interviews were conducted by Allen, Bramesco, Fitzgerald, Reid, and Katherine Cheung of U.S. Foodservice at the George Washington University School of Law in April. Finally, it came time to try to match students and internships. This was no simple task. There were many issues to consider, such as whether a candidate had access to reliable transportation. Students who did not have cars could not be sent to internships in the suburbs that were not at the very least Metro-accessible. Where a student indicated an interest in a particular practice area, WMACCA tried to find an internship that would match that, or one that dovetailed with a student’s previous work experience. Finally, some of the host organizations offered to provide funding to supplement the WMACCA stipends, so we also gave some consideration to the students’ financial needs. Once we made preliminary matches, WMACCA set up meetings between each law student and organization so that the legal departments could be sure that they were comfortable with their corporate scholar before the match was final. WMACCA is proud to announce the WMACCA Corporate Scholars Class of 2004: • Jerry Brito, George Mason University, will intern at MCI. • Andrea Clarke, American University, will intern at LCC International Inc. • Tyesha Cowan, University of the District of Columbia, will intern at the American Legacy Foundation. • Michelle Lee, Georgetown University, will intern at Sodexho Inc. • Luis Lorenzana, George Washington University, will intern at the American Society of Health System Pharmacists. • Marina Mogil, Catholic University, will intern at Rolls-Royce North America Inc. • Gena’ve Ramirez, University of the District of Columbia, will intern at Freddie Mac. Each of the students will have a WMACCA mentor who will check in with him or her and the host organization to make sure the internship is running smoothly. Then, in the fall, WMACCA will ask the host organizations and the students to critique the program — what were its strengths and weaknesses, ideas about how to improve the process, and what they would do to make it stronger in the coming years. The learning curve in this first year has been steep, but the program coordinators — Allen, Bramesco, Fitzgerald, and Reid — feel it has a good foundation. WMACCA’s vision of an ongoing Corporate Scholars Program got a big boost recently, when MCCA announced that WMACCA would receive another grant in 2005 to fund the internships. WMACCA is taking steps to ensure it will have funds to supplement this grant, so that next year’s program can be even bigger, better, and more exciting for the students and organizations that participate. More information about the program is available by contacting WMACCA at [email protected]. Vanessa Allen, vice president and deputy general counsel of Digex Inc. (MCI), and Brandon Fitzgerald, assistant general counsel of U.S. Foodservice, are co-chairs of the WMACCA Diversity Forum. Julienne Bramesco is senior counsel, specializing in labor and employment law, at Kaiser Permanente and a member of WMACCA’s board of directors. Kathy Barlow, vice president, general counsel, and secretary of the Bernstein Cos., is WMACCA president. Ilene G. Reid is WMACCA executive director.

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