Archive for May, 2014

Law360, “9 Female Attorneys Tapped For New BigLaw ‘Returnship’ Program”

9 Female Attorneys Tapped For New BigLaw ‘Returnship’ Program

By Andrew Strickler

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Law360, New York (May 19, 2014, 7:55 PM ET) — A group of nine women have been chosen as the first fellows of a BigLaw program, launched early this year to help women who took breaks from their legal careers to transition back to law firms, according to an announcement of the program on Monday.

The four firms participating in the OnRamp Fellowship — Baker Botts LLPCooley LLPHogan Lovells, and Sidley Austin LLP — have agreed to bring on the fellows in corporate, litigation, trademark, finance, and real estate practices in six cities.

“It is gratifying to see these lawyers, who excelled in their careers before taking a break from practice, return to the legal profession in a way that acknowledges their talent and experience while providing an environment in which they can re-establish their practices, explore new areas, and expand their professional networks,” OnRamp founder Caren Ulrich Stacy said in a statement.

More than two dozen firms have inquired about participation, and the program plans to run a second phase of the pilot this summer.

The participating firms had previously committed to hiring at least one fellow, but Baker Botts and Cooley brought in two fellows each, while Sidley hired four.

“I have no doubt that this inaugural group of fellows will lead the way in demonstrating the depth and breadth of this untapped pool of talent,” Stacy said.

The fellows were chosen from a pool of 170 applicants, many of whom left their legal careers to raise families and pursue other kinds of work and education. Their hiatuses from practice ranged in length from three to 20 years.

The program was modeled after so-called returnship programs offered at companies such as Goldman Sachs & Co. and Sara Lee Corp., and is intended to provide a re-entry to a full-time legal career.

Applying lawyers were required to have three years of 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.

The Recorder, “Program for Women Who Left BigLaw Taps Nine for Return Trip”

SAN FRANCISCO — As participants in a new legal workforce reentry program, Cooley and Sidley Austin have hired three experienced women lawyers for fellowships in their California offices.

Sheila Bridges, who will join Cooley’s litigation department in San Francisco in June, and Lori Trujillo and Dora de la Rosa, who joined Sidley’s Los Angeles office in the technology and intellectual property transactions and real estate groups, respectively, on Monday, are members of the inaugural class of the OnRamp Fellowship, which matches experienced women lawyers returning to the profession with law firms for a one-year, paid training contract.

In all, nine lawyers were hired as part of the pilot program. The six other fellows will join Cooley, Sidley and the other participating firms—Baker Botts and Hogan Lovells—in Chicago, Houston, New York and Washington, D.C.

Both Carrie Wagner, director of the attorney recruiting and diversity program at Cooley, and Jennifer Hagle, cochairwoman of Sidley’s recruiting committee and the committee on retention and promotion of women, said participating in OnRamp’s pilot program was a “no-brainer.”

“We’re very interested in hiring from this pool of attorneys,” said Wagner of the women who have taken leave from Big Law for one reason or another. But, because the candidates’ profiles vary by legal experience relative to the duration of their hiatus, “it’s hard to find them. If they were just to write in and apply for an open position, we would have a hard time identifying where they would fit in.”

Wagner said OnRamp’s rigorous screening process and one-year commitment gives the firms some time to evaluate the candidates’ required ramp-up time, experience level, expertise and billing rate at the time of hire. If a relevant position is available after the yearlong training contract, fellows have the opportunity to interview with the law firm for a longer-term role in a particular practice group or office.

Wagner is “very optimistic” about the program. She called Bridges, who during her six-year hiatus from private practice served as a pro bono attorney for the Women’s Bar Foundation Family Law Project in Boston and earned two master’s degrees, a “phenomenal candidate.”

“Her desire and interest to really get back into the practice and her commitment are just second to none,” Wagner said. Bridges relocated from Boston to San Francisco for the OnRamp Fellowship opportunity.

Hagle sang a similar song about Sidley’s fellows. “They’re coming back in with experience and the desire to achieve,” she said. Her hope is that “within two weeks, everyone is going to forget that they are fellows,” she said. “They’ll come onboard as associates, and within a few weeks they’ll be working on high-level, complicated assignments, just like one of the team.”

Like Wagner, Hagle sees long-term potential in the OnRamp Fellowship. “It’s really going to help enhance our pipeline to women that will make it to partnership and make it to positions of leadership,” she said.

Since Caren Ulrich Stacy, a longtime consultant on professional development and diversity initiatives at law firms, launched the fellowship in January, she’s received hundreds of applications from women lawyers and more than 25 inquiries from law firms interested in participating. As a result, a second phase of the pilot is in the planning stages. Stacy said she expects details to be announced by midsummer.

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Texas Lawyer, “$125,000, Mentors and a Chance: Help for “Dead End” on Job Search After 15-Year Hiatus from Law

$125,000, mentors and a chance: help for “dead end” on job search after 15-year hiatus from law

Brenda Sapino Jeffreys, Texas Lawyer

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With a 15-year gap in her résumé, lawyer Heather Hewitt of Houston was having trouble finding work as a lawyer, even contract work or document review.

But in August, Hewitt starts a year of training and work in the corporate department at Baker Botts in Houston, where she is one of two women lawyers in the firm’s inaugural OnRamp Fellowship class. Hewitt also will receive coaching and professional development with her OnRamp Fellowship, and the fellowship includes a $125,000 stipend.

Hewitt said the training is just what she needs to burnish her résumé to land a full-time job as a lawyer.

“Not only was it an opportunity to work for a fantastic firm with amazing mentors and training but the chance to prove my marketability, to demonstrate to someone I have value to add,” said Hewitt, a 1995 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law who left the practice of law in 1999 after the birth of her first child.

Baker Botts is a founding sponsor of OnRamp, which was formed to help women lawyers get back into the workforce. The other woman in Baker Botts’ fellowship class, Yvette Lanneaux, plans to start work later this month in the firm’s corporate department in New York City.

Hewitt said she did a federal clerkship after law school, and she worked at Andrews Kurth and Hicks Thomas as a commercial litigator before she took time off to raise her family. She was “really shocked” at how difficult it has been to find a job since she recently decided to go back to work.

“I thought it would be a challenge, but it was dead end after dead end. I had a good career in the day, but it was discouraging,” Hewitt said.

In a written statement, Baker Botts managing partner Andrew Baker said the firm is “thrilled” to be part of the OnRamp Fellowship.

“We are excited to have two incredibly talented lawyers, Heather and Yvette, as part of our first fellowship class.”

OnRamp Fellowship announced on May 19 that a total of nine women lawyers were awarded fellowships at four firms. The other firms are Cooley, Hogan Lovells and Sidley Austin.