Archive for January, 2014

The Recorder, “OnRamp Program Aims to Bring Women Back to Big Law”


Nathalie Pierrepont, The Recorder

SAN FRANCISCO — Caren Ulrich Stacy has devoted her professional life to counseling law firms on recruiting, training and diversity. Now the Denver-based consultant has enlisted Cooley, Baker Botts, Sidley Austin and Hogan Lovells to help jump-start the careers of female attorneys who have taken time off from work for one reason or another. The OnRamp Fellowship, a one year, paid training program began accepting applications earlier this month. It is open to women lawyers with three or more years of experience who have taken a hiatus from practicing law of at least two years. The four Am Law 100 firms participating in the pilot program are considering applicants in Palo Alto, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, in addition to 11 other U.S. cities. The Recorder checked in with Ulrich Stacy by email this week to ask about the program’s goals and who’s applying.

Q: What was the inspiration for this program?

A: The design of the Fellowship was based on Legal Residency Programs, which are short-term internships for recent law graduates. Having helped several law schools and law firms build residency programs, I saw firsthand the incredible benefits of a job “try-out” for both the law firm and the new lawyer: The law firm gets an opportunity to assess the new lawyer who they see as a “risky” hire since he (or she) didn’t get a job through the traditional on-campus interview process. And the new lawyer gains valuable experience that he (or she) can leverage going forward.

Women lawyers who took time off to raise children or for other reasons are often seen as risky hires as well. Because of the gap in their experience, there is a question about their fit in the traditional lockstep scheme, and whether or not they have the skills and the desire to successfully re-enter the profession. I created the OnRamp Fellowship, which is essentially a residency program or job “try-out” for experienced women lawyers, as a way to lessen the risk for employers while giving returning women an opportunity to broaden their experience and demonstrate their value.

Q: How did you convince law firms to participate?

A: I approached specific law firms­—Cooley, Sidley, Baker Botts and Hogan Lovells—that are incredibly well-respected for their diversity efforts and successes. They didn’t need convincing, actually. Immediately realizing that this program is an attempt to help women re-entering the workforce while also improving the profession through increased gender diversity, they all joined the effort without hesitation.

Q: What’s the benefit for the participating firms?

A: The participating law firms gain access to a very talented pool of women lawyers who want to return, but need an opportunity to demonstrate their value. There is little risk to the firm, and a huge upside in potentially increasing gender diversity in the firm and in the profession as a whole.

Q: I understand that you’ll be accepting applications until early March, but can you describe the applicant pool thus far?

A: A little over two weeks into the launch, more than 30 women lawyers have started the application process. Their backgrounds and experiences differ drastically. Many of them took a hiatus of three to 15 years, which is a larger range than I initially expected. A few of the women, interestingly, are military wives who left the profession to follow their significant others’ careers. No matter their story, however, they all seem to share a strong desire to return to practice and demonstrate their value to clients.

Q: What do you consider when matching applicants to the law firms?

A: The matching process includes a personality, skills, values and writing assessment. The goal is to ensure that the applicants have all of the necessary characteristics—initiative, engagement, passion, decision making, problem solving, oral and written advocacy, confidence—to thrive in a law firm. And, to be certain that the values of the applicants are aligned with the values of the firm, the participating law firms are undergoing a culture analysis. Often, cultural compatibility matters as much or more than anything else when examining the reasons for attrition in law firms.

Q: What are your goals for this pilot program?

A: The main goal is to increase gender diversity in law firms. To do so, first, we have to bring great women lawyers back into the profession. And, second, we have to equip these women lawyers—along with all of our associates and partners—with the tools and experience needed to advance and thrive in leadership roles. The longer term hope is that the Fellowship platform will increase these returning women’s skills and experience so they can gain full-fledged, longer-term positions with law firms and eventually advance into leadership roles.

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Law360, “New Fellowship Program Targets Returning Women”

New Fellowship Program Targets Returning Women Lawyers

By Andrew Strickler

Full Link:

Law360, New York (January 14, 2014, 7:28 PM ET) — Four BigLaw firms have signed on as the first backers of a new fellowship program designed to help women lawyers who took time away from their careers to transition back to the profession, the firms and the fellowship organizer announced Monday.

The four firms participating in the OnRamp Fellowship — Baker Botts LLP<>, Cooley LLP<>, Hogan Lovells<>, and Sidley Austin LLP — will consider applications for a wide range of practice areas in 15 cities starting this spring.

Applying lawyers are required to have three years professional experience and have been on hiatus for at least two years. Firms will pay their fellows a $125,000 stipend, with benefits, for a one-year, full-time contract. About 35 career development and other experts are also volunteering support for fellows.

“This really is for women who have been out of the profession long enough that they don’t know quite where they fit, and maybe the firms don’t know quite where they fit either,” said OnRamp founder Caren Ulrich Stacy, a longtime legal industry recruiter and career development expert.

The program, modeled after so-called returnship programs offered at companies such as Goldman Sachs & Co<>. and Sara Lee Corp<>., is intended to provide a legal career re-entry, as well as help firms stop the “leaky pipeline” for women associates who have seen their ranks dip in recent years.

“There is going to be some rust, and we want to shake that some that rust off and get fellows with experts and all the supplemental training they haven’t gotten in two, three or four years out,” Stacy said. “We want to give them every tool possible so they can to succeed and advance into leadership positions.”

Last year, many women leaders in the profession reacted with dismay to industry data showing that the pipeline of women entering BigLaw continued to shrink in 2013 despite strong recruitment and retention efforts.

A report from the National Association for Legal Career Professionals showed that, for the fourth year in a row, women made up a <> smaller percentage<> of firm associate ranks. The percentage of female summer associates similarly declined in both of the last two years, dropping below 2009 levels.

OnRamp’s first-year pilot program is expected to include between five and 20 fellows, depending on the applicant pool and firms’ hiring needs.

Van Beckwith, Baker Botts partner in charge of recruiting, said it has committed to bringing on two or three OnRamp fellows this year.

“For a lot of women lawyers who leave, often to raise families … their commitment and time they spent getting educated hasn’t gone away, and they want to get back in and practice full-time again and be really committed,” said Baker Botts partner Samantha Hale Crispin, firmwide chair of the firm’s women’s initiative.

Though successful OnRamp fellows aren’t guaranteed a job, they can apply for standard firm positions, and will have references and other support for their next stage, Stacy said.

The application and interview process must be completed by February 28, with fellows starting work in April or May.

–Editing by Stephen Berg.

All Content © 2003-2014, Portfolio Media, Inc.


Texas LawBook, “Baker Botts and Sidley Lead Texas Effort in New Women’s Fellowship Program”

Baker Botts and Sidley Lead Texas Effort in New Women’s Fellowship Program

© 2014 The Texas Lawbook.

By Natalie Posgate
Staff Writer for The Texas Lawbook

(January 13) – For nearly two decades, law firms across Texas have struggled to improve the number of experienced women lawyers among their ranks. They increased their recruiting efforts at law schools, which led to significant jumps in the number of women in associate ranks.

But somewhere in between the third and eighth year of employment, many women associates left the firms never to return.

Now there’s a new, innovative effort underway to turn that around.

Baker Botts and Sidley Austin are two of the four law firms sponsoring the OnRamp Fellowship program, a new initiative created to help women re-enter their career tracks in the practice of law.

OnRamp will match experienced women lawyers returning to the profession with law firms for a one-year training contract that includes a $125,000 salary. The hope is that after one year, the fellows will either start full-time at the participating firms or have the training and contacts needed to land their next job. The women targeted for the fellowship have often left the field to raise a family.

Along with Baker Botts and Sidley, two other sponsor firms – Washington, D.C.-based Hogan Lovells and Palo Alto-based Cooley – are piloting the OnRamp Fellowship in 2014.

The new fellowship comes at a time when the pipeline remains leaky at law firms. Recent NALP statistics show the number of midlevel and senior female associates has dropped for four straight years. Though the breakdown of entry level associates is generally even between men and women at most AmLaw 200 firms, women only represent 16 percent of partners.

“The first goal is to bring more women lawyers back into the fold,” said OnRamp founder Caren Ulrich Stacy. “To achieve our second goal – advancing more women lawyers into leadership roles – we will rigorously screen applicants to find high-performing women lawyers who will have the skills and the desire to advance as well as provide intensive leadership training, career counseling, and CLE opportunities to further boost their success.”

The pilot firms are considering applicants in 15 major U.S. cities, and the number of fellows selected by the firms will vary from one to five. Baker Botts has six participating offices this year, including Austin, Dallas and Houston. Chicago-based Sidley, which named its first woman partner in 1956, has four offices considering fellow applications, including Dallas.

In Dallas, Sidley’s global finance practice group is considering fellowship applications.

Baker Botts’ Texas offices will consider fellows in the corporate, intellectual property, tax, finance and energy transactions practice areas.

Dallas-based antitrust partner Van Beckwith and corporate partner Samantha Hale Crispin are leading the fellowship program for Baker Botts. Beckwith is the firm’s partner in charge of recruiting. Crispin is the firmwide chair for the Global Women’s Forum, an initiative to foster networking, mentoring and professional development among women at the firm.

Through his national networking duties as partner in charge of recruiting, Beckwith met Ulrich Stacy, who is a legal consultant in Colorado who has worked with major law firms on lawyer recruitment, development and diversity.

So when Ulrich Stacy contacted Beckwith a few months ago about OnRamp, it was a no-brainer for both sides.

“Texas is home to some of the best legal talent and law firms in the U.S.,” Ulrich Stacy said. “Baker Botts has proven itself to be an innovative firm that places a high priority on finding and developing the best talent. And, they care deeply about diversity. It was the first firm I approached and they accepted without hesitation.”

Crispin said joining the effort was easy because OnRamp fits nicely with Baker Botts’ own women’s initiatives.

“We’re really excited about this,” Crispin said. “There aren’t many avenues for [women] to get back into the practice of law and practice at a high level at a big firm, picking back up where they left off.”

After getting on board, Beckwith said the firm immediately went to work with Ulrich Stacy to develop a strong structure for the fellowship program.

“This is good for Baker Botts, good for returning career track women and good for the profession,” Beckwith said.

Applicants must have at least three years of experience in the law and be at least two years removed from their practice. Applications open Monday, and Ulrich Stacy will work over the next month to seek candidates and make recommendations to the firms.

Selected fellows will begin working at their pilot firms between late April and early May.

Fellows will work as if they were associates at the firms. In addition, the fellowship provides the women with career-development support through unlimited access to online CLE programs; training by specialists in negotiations, business development and leadership; and one-on-one coaching by legal experts in the profession.

The training programs will help the fellows get up-to-date with their skills and the current trends in their practice areas – something that often serves as an obstacle for women trying to return to the legal profession.

“Employers are going to want to understand how current you are on your skills,” Crispin said. “Can you come in and hit the ground running, and be at the level you want to be at and we want you to be at?”

© 2014 The Texas Lawbook.

Am Law Daily, “New Fellowship Aims to Restart Dormant Legal Careers”

Finding a job as a lateral associate in The Am Law 100 can be a difficult task no matter the circumstances. For female attorneys who have left the practice of law for several years, the challenge of landing a new job can be especially hard.

With that in mind, Colorado-based legal consultant Caren Ulrich Stacy is launching a fellowship program that will put women lawyers who have taken a break from the profession for one reason or another in year-long jobs at Am Law firms. So far, Baker Botts, Cooley, Hogan Lovells, and Sidley Austin have agreed to participate in the program, and Ulrich Stacy says she hopes to expand the effort if the first year goes well.

Ulrich Stacy would like to see the participating firms give their respective fellows full-time positions when the 12-month program—which comes with a $125,000 salary—ends. Alternatively, she hopes the experience gives the lawyers who take part enough of a resume boost to land their next job.

“These women were highly sought after when they graduated from law school and they should be again,” she says.

Ulrich Stacy has spent her career working in law school career services, at firms such as Arnold & Porter; Cooley; McGuireWoods; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and as an outside consultant to firms and legal departments. The idea for the new program, which she has given the name OnRamp Fellowship, came to her four months ago while she was working with two Colorado law schools that were placing recent graduates in short-term jobs.

Representatives of the law firms that have signed on to the fellowship program believe it could have real value in increasing the legal industry’s gender diversity.

Cooley CEO Joe Conroy, for instance, says he was immediately excited about the idea when Ulrich Stacy approached him a few months ago. Conroy says he sees what she is trying to do adding to a critically important conversation: “Young women lawyers, you can tell them as much as you’d like that there’s a path for them, but you have to show them role models or they’re not going to believe it.”

At Baker Botts, Van Beckwith, the firm’s partner in charge of recruiting, says it was an “easy decision” to get involved. Samantha Crispin, a Baker Botts partner who chairs the firm’s global women’s forum, echoes that sentiment. “It hits squarely within the goals of our women’s initiative—recruiting, retention, development and promotion of women lawyers,” Crispin says.

The application process for prospective fellows officially kicks off Monday. Ulrich Stacy says she plans to rigorously vet all of the candidates herself and make recommendations to the firms by the end of February. The up to 20 fellows she expects to join the program this year will start working with their new employers in late April or early May.

All told, the four firms involved have told Ulrich Stacy that as of now they expect to have openings in at least 15 U.S. markets, including Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Though applicants must have at least three years of legal industry experience to be considered, Ulrich Stacy says she deliberately set the salary lower than the $160,00 that a typical first-year receives. She did so, she says, to give firms the flexibility to build in training and integration time and adjust billing rates.

“One thing that’s interesting is that other corporations have been doing this for awhile, they get it,” says Jennifer Hagle, a cochair of the national recruiting committee at Sidley. “We really see this as a win-win venture with very little downside.”

The participating firms will pay Ulrich Stacy for screening and recommending applicants via a process that she says will involve skills tests, a written assessment, and behavioral interviews. Once selected, fellows will also have access to trainers and counselors whom Ulrich Stacy has recruited, as well as to free continuing legal education courses.

Conroy expects the cost of the program to pay off quickly for Cooley. “If you get one success, the costs are nominal,” he says. “If you broaden the conversation within the firm and awareness by 35 percent, the costs are nominal.”

Ulrich Stacy’s program is not the first initiative aimed at helping women reenter the legal profession, though it’s format does appear to be unique. Some firms use alumni networks, maintained either formally or informally, to extend job offers to associates who have taken time off. Cravath, Swaine & Moore, for instance, has a formalized associate re-entry program that allows former associates to keep in contact with—and their bar association dues paid by—the firm, while also providing them with access to CLE programs. Those who take part in the program have the option of returning to Cravath if they choose to practice law again.

A few other broader initiatives have started over the years but failed to gain traction.

In 2006—before the economic downturn flooded the market with out-of-work associates—two Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partners created a program for New York–area women who had taken a break from practice but wanted to maintain their professional networks and keep current on legal trends. Sponsored by the Business Law section of the American Bar Association, the organizers held monthly lunch sessions at Am Law firms featuring leading industry figures.

Despite a burst of publicity from The New York Times and legal trade publications, the ABA shut down the program, known as Back to Business Law, after three years. Linda Hayman, one of Back to Business Law’s creators, says it succeeded as a pilot program but failed to establish itself in a permanent way.

On the West Coast, a similar California-based initiative that launched to much fanfare in 2006 petered out two years later. The program, run by UC Hastings College of the Law’s Center for WorkLife Law, ran eight-week sessions geared toward preparing women to reenter the legal market. Joan Williams, a UC Hastings professor and director of the center, says the initiative died because organizers could not find a sustainable business model.

Ulrich Stacy hopes her OnRamp Fellowship succeeds in the long term, not only as a viable business, but as a way of ensuring that women keep making gains in the legal profession (As The Am Law Daily reported Friday, women still lag far behind in the partnership ranks of Am Law 200 firms, recently exemplified by five firms that failed to promote a single woman to partner this year). She hopes the program not only helps firms increase the number of women they employ, but also increases the number of female leaders.

“The first goal is just to bring more women back into the fold,” Ulrich Stacy says. “The second goal is to find women who have the potential to advance.”

OnRamp Fellowship Press Release

OnRamp Fellowship Launch Press Release 1-13-14