Davis Polk & Wardwell unveiled a new reintegration program on Tuesday that aims to improve gender diversity at the firm by giving women who’ve left to raise children a path to return.
The firm will invite lawyers who previously worked at Davis Polk for three or more years, but who have been away from the profession for at least two years, to reapply for an associate-level position. Those who are accepted to the program, dubbed “Davis Polk Revisited,” will receive training and mentorship from firm partners, said managing partner Thomas Reid.
“I know there are many women who opted to leave the firm,” Reid said. “It’s very hard to find that way back in. That is what this program is designed to do—to make the way back in easy.”
Participants in the year-long program will be paid $190,000, Reid said. At the end of the year, they may be offered a permanent position and designated part of a particular associate class based on their experience.
Reid said he began to think about launching such a program several years ago, after a conversation with a client at Morgan Stanley, which has a similar program. Last year, Davis Polk hired a former associate, Angela Doolan, as its alumni relations manager. Doolan got the project underway by speaking with firm alumni about whether they’d be interested in returning and what they would need to do so.
Reid said that partners William Chudd and Dana Seshens were also involved.
A program with similar goals, the OnRamp Fellowship, launched in 2014 to help women return to big law after taking time off, usually to raise children. Almost 30 law firms, including Cooley, Morrison & Foerster and White & Case, as well as the legal departments of several big companies, have accepted fellows as part of the OnRamp program.
The Davis Polk program only applies to lawyers who previously practiced there. The firm will be accepting applications in October and hopes the first participants will begin work in February. Reid said the firm is aiming to welcome a new class of returnees twice a year, but there’s no target number of participants.
Though women are well represented in law schools and at law firms as junior associates, they make up only 17.4 percent of equity partners at law firms, according to the National Association for Law Placement. In that respect, Davis Polk’s record is average; women make up 17 percent of Davis Polk’s single-tier equity partnership, Reid told The American Lawyer last year.
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