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After two years of preparation, the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group unveiled its first tangible initiative this summer — a summer clerkship program for minority 1Ls. And PDLG, a consortium of Philadelphia law firms and in-house legal departments with the goal of improving minority recruitment and retention numbers, declared the program a great success. After some internal haggling, the program’s aim shifted from minority students to those who have overcome significant life obstacles in achieving a legal education. In all, 12 students from six law schools spent the summer working for PDLG members, which encompassed eight law firms and four in-house legal departments: Buchanan Ingersoll, Cozen O’Connor, Dechert, Duane Morris, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Pepper Hamilton, Reed Smith, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, ACE USA, Glaxo SmithKline, Sunoco and Temple University. Six law schools — Penn, Temple, Villanova, Widener, Howard and Rutgers-Newark — had students selected to participate. Dickinson submitted students for consideration but none was selected. Rutgers-Camden did not participate this year but most likely will next summer, said Cozen partner Elaine Rinaldi, who headed up the PDLG 1L program. Feeling that extra work was too onerous for already busy students, several law schools balked when initially approached in the fall of 2001 because PDLG originally required students to submit an original writing example. That matter was eventually cleared up by allowing students to submit writing samples from their first-semester writing classes. The 1L program was originally slated for the summer of 2002, but Rinaldi said PDLG decided to postpone it for a year while working on some of the “mechanical” elements of the program. But it hit the ground running last fall, with presentations at several law schools to generate student interest. Rinaldi said 36 students applied, with 26 of those sent to interview with the legal employers, who each selected one person. The interviewees were sent to their respective firms through a blind lottery rather than based on the preferences of the students and employers. This element of the program caused some concern from the law schools as well as some PDLG member firms that chose not to participate. When asked about the lottery selection process, Rinaldi said she received “no complaints” from participating firms about the quality of applicants received. “Everyone was thrilled with who they received, so I think those concerns were unrealized,” Rinaldi said. Drinker Biddle & Reath hiring partner Bill Clark said his firm wanted the freedom to select candidates to interview. “We decided not to participate for that reason,” Clark said. “We thought it would be counterproductive for the students and the firm. But we are committed to minority hiring, and I think you only need to look at our hiring numbers for evidence of that.” Morgan Lewis hiring partner Colleen Meehan said all of the PDLG member employers agreed on the blind selection process when the program was being created. She said Morgan Lewis interviewed two applicants and selected one student from Rutgers-Newark. “And we actually invited him back for next summer, so it worked out great for us,” Meehan said. “I think the program in general is a great tool to introduce people to the Philadelphia legal community. At Rutgers-Newark, students usually are familiar with North Jersey or New York firms. This was a way for this person to become familiar with Philadelphia and its legal market.” Jillian Hooper, a New York City native who just started her second year at Penn Law, said she found out about the program though the school’s career planning office. She spent her summer at Reed Smith and said she feels lucky to have done so because the job market was so tight for 1Ls. She said she was treated just like any other summer associate, with the only difference being that she was the sole 1L in Reed Smith’s summer program in Philadelphia. “Overall, it was an amazing experience,” Hooper said. “The important part was that I brought my experience back to Penn. Philadelphia has a reputation [with minority law students] of not being as diverse as other cities. I would have never considered practicing at Reed Smith or in Philadelphia before this summer. Now I would because of all the people I met and opportunities I had. I know I’ll spend at least part of my summer with Reed Smith next year, and we’ll see what happens.” Other PDLG firms that declined to participate were Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads and Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen. Elaine Petrossian, Villanova Law’s assistant dean of career strategy, said the only glitch in the program was that employment preferences indicated by students on their applications were ignored in favor of the blind lottery. For instance if a student wanted to work at a firm rather than a corporate legal department or wanted to work at a firm with a strong intellectual property practice, those factors were not considered by PDLG before students were sent out for interviews. “I just think they need to make it clearer to students to what extent they are using the student’s preference,” Petrossian said. “It would be one thing if you were talking about the same [type and level] of employers, but we’re not. Working for a corporation is not going to lead to future employment, and students only receive work-study wages, which are about $10 an hour. That can be a great experience as well. It’s just different than working at a firm. It all worked out fine; I just think they could work on the process a bit.” Villanova had the most participating students, with four. Petrossian said Villanova students gave the program high marks, including one woman who spent the summer working for Sunoco. Petrossian said Villanova decided to put together a three-member selection committee to generate student interest and help the students through the application process. PDLG officials visited the campus in November to explain the program to students, 16 of whom decided to apply. Using PDLG’s criteria — writing ability, life experience, maturity, leadership, academic performance and work experience — Petrossian said the committee narrowed the applicant pool down to nine students whose names were submitted to PDLG for further consideration. “That was the hard part, because I think all of them would have been good candidates,” Petrossian said. “I know some other schools were reluctant to form a selection committee for that very reason. But I think the selection committee really worked for us. It was one of the reasons we had such a robust applicant pool, which really led to us having so many students wind up in the program.” PDLG held four events for students this summer: an orientation meeting, two luncheons and a wrap-up event. The luncheons included speeches from local general counsel who discussed the state of the local corporate community. Students spending their summers at local corporations also enjoyed the experience. In-house legal departments do not often hire summer associates or entry-level lawyers, so the point of such an experience is to become familiar with how a corporate legal department operates. Rinaldi said those students did perform legal research and other tasks but still thought it was a good experience. As for next year, Rinaldi said PDLG hopes to have more member employers in the fold, which would allow the organization to increase the size of the program. She said there would not be any major changes, just some minor tweaks. One change will be to involve those students spending summers with corporate legal departments with more opportunities to mingle with law firm summer associates. She said PDLG plans to accomplish this via a “buddy system” where a corporation partners with a law firm. Under such an arrangement, a student working for a corporation will attend the functions of a particular local law firm. Rinaldi said she got the idea after hearing that the Villanova student who summered at Sunoco this year participated in Reed Smith events and was able to meet other summer associates. “You always evaluate the program, but we had really positive results this summer,” Rinaldi said. “When all 12 of them tell you they want to come back to Philadelphia, that’s what it’s all about.”

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