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What was supposed to be an interlude in a panel discussion about issues affecting minority lawyers wound up being the main topic of conversation for a group of surprised-yet-thrilled law students. Mayor John F. Street must have been having a very good day because he surprised event planners and even members of his own staff with his apparent spontaneous announcement Thursday evening that he would be reserving four summer internships at the city Law Department for some of the 49 students in attendance. The Legal Recruitment Administrators of Philadelphia (LRAP) held a 1L diversity reception in which minority 1Ls from the five local law schools were scheduled to spend a few hours at the offices of Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling listening to a panel discussion and mingling with law firm recruiters and hiring partners. Peggy Dixon, Klett Rooney’s recruitment professional, had invited the mayor to give a brief chat and, upon his acceptance, penciled him in for a welcoming address of no more than five to 10 minutes. “We just asked him to stop by and greet the students and talk up Philadelphia as a place to practice law,” said Kelly Enright, Cozen O’Connor’s assistant manager for legal recruitment and one of the two event planners. “The whole point of the event was for the students to make connections and for us to entice them to stay in Philadelphia. And the mayor gave a great talk.” But when discussing the importance of mentoring, those in attendance said the mayor appeared to get caught up in the moment. “I just think he was energized by the crowd of talented young people, because you could see his energy level pick up as he went on with his speech,” said Pepper Hamilton director of recruitment Meg Urbanski, the other main event planner. “And he announced that he would be reserving four internships for the students in attendance. There was an audible gasp followed by applause. He said he wished he could have stayed longer but that he had other commitments.” Urbanski said numerous students approached her afterward with resumes to pass on to the mayor. A spokeswoman for the mayor said because the announcement was off the cuff, no formal recruitment process, guidelines or criteria have been established. The spokeswoman said she did not know if the internships would include financial compensation. Villanova University School of Law associate dean of career planning Elaine Petrossian interned in the City Solicitor’s Office when she was a law student at the University of Virginia in 1992. “It’s a great place to work if you want to get to know the Philadelphia region,” Petrossian said. “It was during [Mayor Edward G.] Rendell’s first year and we were dealing with major issues like the MOVE [tragedy of 1985]. It was really a thrill working for such high-profile people.” Petrossian said the move can help local firms if the students selected for the internship are still debating whether to live and work in Philadelphia. Urbanski said the mayor’s employment offer can only help Philadelphia firms in the long run as they try to keep more minority law students in the city. “We can get another bite of the apple down the line [after their second year of law school],” Urbanski said. “It’s a great problem to have: competing against others for those students.” Pepper Hamilton is one of 12 firms that has participated in the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group’s 1L recruitment program. For the past two summers, local participating firms have been assigned a 1L minority law student from a local law school. The student was integrated into the firm’s summer program with the hope that more minority students stick around to accept full-time positions at Philadelphia firms. Urbanski said she has been thrilled with the two students Pepper Hamilton has been assigned. The student from 2003 wound up accepting an offer outside of the area. But Urbanski hopes to keep in touch and reel the student in if he decides to return to Philadelphia. The candidate from 2004 will be returning to the firm at the end of the summer for a few weeks. “Minority law students are a tight band and they are really networked with one another,” Urbanski said. “So even if a student ultimately decides to take a job in another city, if they pass on good word of mouth about our firm, that can really help us.” LRAP is a group of recruiting professionals and hiring partners from more than 20 of the city’s largest law firms. The group meets monthly and often swaps information about recruitment yield, as well as charting information about students who took positions in other markets. Thursday’s program included a panel discussion with Duane Morris partner and PDLG founder Nolan Atkinson, Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Andrew Chirls, Asian-American Bar Association president-elect and Reed Smith associate Sophia Lee, and Morgan Lewis & Bockius associate and former Hispanic Bar Association president Richard Negrin. Among the issues discussed were the benefits of practicing in a “big, small town” like Philadelphia, the evolution of opportunities for minority attorneys and a call to the next generation of minority lawyers to be active in their communities. Students from the law schools at the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University-Camden, Temple University, Villanova University and Widener University were in attendance at the event.

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