The statistics don’t lie. There is approximately a 50/50 split between men and women who graduate from law school and obtain entry level associate positions at firms. However, many more women end up leaving after a few years and either never return to the firm environment or return to practicing law at all. We can point to a myriad of reasons, both personal to each woman and systemic of the general firm structure, but the bottom line is that women lawyers are a group that could use assistance in getting back into law.
Enter the OnRamp Fellowship. Founded by Caren Ulrich Stacey, the Fellowship is a re-entry platform that allows experienced, talented lawyers to return to the work force through a one year, paid training contract. This platform allows lawyers to renew and increase their legal skills, while getting a resume boost that will help transition them to the next position at the same or different law firm. The Fellowship also provides lawyers with the opportunity to make valuable networking contacts and obtain professional references.
In turn, law firms benefit from tapping into an overlooked pool of highly skilled and experienced lawyers who are eager to demonstrate that they still got it. Not to mention, participating law firms get to have bragging rights to encouraging diversity and doing good for women lawyers everywhere. The legal profession, as a whole, is also replenished by the infusion of “new” talent and improved gender equality among the numbers of mid-to-senior level associates.
So which law firms currently have bragging rights to participating in the 2014 pilot program? Cooley, Baker Botts, Sidley Austin, and Hogan Lovells. And who are the accomplished women lawyers chosen as the2014-15 Fellows?
• Sheila Bridges (Cooley, San Francisco)
• Dora de la Rosa (Sidley Austin, Los Angeles)
• Dana Glenn (Hogan Lovells, Washington, D.C.)
• Heather Hewitt (Baker Botts, Houston)
• Mary Klumpp (Cooley, Washington, D.C.)
• Yvette Lanneaux (Baker Botts, New York)
• Mimi Ophir (Sidley Austin, New York)
• Lori Trujillo (Sidley Austin, Los Angeles)
• Pamela Zdunek (Sidley Austin, Chicago)
Although the OnRamp Fellowship is a great solution to the re-entry challenges faced by women lawyers, the downside to the success of this platform is that it is extremely popular and thus extremely competitive. Notwithstanding the high number of applicants, OnRamp also utilizes a rigorous process for both law firms and applicants. Law firms undergo an assessment of the organizational culture. High performing women lawyers at the firm are interviewed to gather information and analyze their abilities to achieve within that particular environment. As for the applicants, they are required to complete battery of online skills, personality, and values assessments, take a writing assessment, write a personal essay, and participate in a behavioral interview. Upon completion, a “Screening Scorecard” for each applicant, containing assessments details and other application materials, are sent to the law firms who can then choose who to personally interview.
Needless to say, the OnRamp Fellowship is slated to be a coveted and prestigious achievement that will indicate to subsequent employers that the recipient is the best of the best.If you missed applying the first time around, OnRamp will be launching a second pilot program this fall due to overwhelming interest. New positions with more than 10 law firms will be posted in mid September 2014. So remember to check back for phase 2 of the OnRamp Fellowship and good luck!
Sunny Choi is the 2013 Writers in Residence Coordinator for Ms. JD. She is a former participant in the Writers in Residence program, where her monthly column Legally Thrifty focused on beginners personal finance advice for law students and professionals. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she currently practices commercial litigation and creditors’ rights while freelance writing and blogging in her spare time. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.