Law360, New York (September 23, 2015, 10:42 PM ET) — A “returnship” fellowship program that helps female attorneys return to high-level legal positions after taking time off from BigLaw is continuing to grow, making its first forays into corporate law departments.
The OnRamp Fellowship program, launched with the backing of just four firms last year, has added six additional participants — bringing the total number of firm backers to 25 — and is set to see its first in-house fellows at Amazon.com Inc. and Barclays, program founder Caren Ulrich Stacy told Law360 this week.
The latest BigLaw additions to the program are Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Loeb & Loeb LLP, Stoel Rives LLP,Wiley Rein LLP and Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dickler LLP, adding to 19 previously participating firms.
“These firms are taking action and doing something that will actually move the needle for women in the industry’s mid- to senior-level ranks,” Stacy said. “At this point I think firms are seeing this as a proven concept and a way to get to an untapped group of talent.”
Amazon has posted potential fellowship spots in digital, Web services and intellectual property, and Barclays has three OnRamp fellowship opportunities in a New York compliance group.
David Zapolsky, senior vice president and general counsel for Amazon, praised the program in a statement.
“Consistent with our commitment to hire and develop the best, we try to access as many different sources of great talent as possible,” he said. “We’re excited to partner with the OnRamp Fellowship because it will give us the chance to work with a traditionally underutilized and undervalued pool of outstanding and diverse lawyers.”
With some first-wave OnRamp lawyers already having moved into full-time roles, Stacy estimated that 50 female attorneys transitioning back to practice, many after extended breaks to support families, would be in position for permanent jobs after completing the fellowship next year.
The four initial OnRamp backers — Baker Botts LLP, Cooley LLP, Hogan Lovells and Sidley Austin LLP — are continuing to participate. Sidley has made four of its seven fellows permanent; the three others have not yet completed the program, she said. Cooley has also seen a San Francisco fellow move onto a permanent role in a trusts and estate practice at another firm.
Modeled on other returnship programs offered at companies like Goldman Sachs Group Inc., OnRamp fellowships provide a $125,000 stipend with benefits for a one-year contract.
Previous OnRamp expansions have brought in Akerman LLP, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, Blank Rome LLP, Covington & Burling LLP, Crowell & Moring LLP, Fenwick & West LLP, Fish & Richardson PC, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLP, Fox Rothschild LLP, Goodwin Procter LLP, Jenner & Block LLP, K&L Gates LLP, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and White & Case LLP.
All together, the participating firms and law departments have posted about 150 jobs in 33 cities in a range of practice areas, including litigation, tax, antitrust, compliance, corporate, emerging companies, finance, employment, real estate, and mergers and acquisitions.
–Editing by Mark Lebetkin.