Archive for September, 2014

The National Law Journal, “Women Find a Way Back into Big Law Careers”

One-third of OnRamp Fellowship participants belong to minority groups.

DORA DE LA ROSA: “I really didn’t see a pathway back into Big Law,” the fellow said. “But this program has just been fabulous. It’s great to be able to commit to the work without feeling guilty.”

Dora de la Rosa was on the path to a career in the upper reaches of the legal profession. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she was the first in her family to go to college and upon graduation from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 1986 quickly found a job in the Los Angeles office of a large national law firm.

Two years later, she gave birth to her first child. Given the demands of her ­profession, “I quickly realized that it was going to be difficult to parent the way I wanted to,” she said. De la Rosa would spend the next 12 years balancing family life with jobs at smaller firms or part-time before leaving the law in 2000 to focus on her two children and community activism.

Flash forward 14 years — de la Rosa’s children are in college and she has reclaimed her legal career as an associate in Sidley Austin’s real estate transactions practice. She is one of nine women re-entering the legal workforce through the OnRamp Fellowship, which places women who have been out of the profession for at least three years into one-year positions paying $125,000 at large firms.

The program represents a small step toward changing the perception that major law firms are not places where women or minorities thrive, founder Caren Ulrich Stacy said. Women made up nearly 45 percent of law firm associates in 2013, according to the National Association for Law Placement, but slightly more than 20 percent of partners.

The attrition rate for minority women was even higher — they comprised 11 percent of associates in 2013 but 2 percent of partners. Family demands are a leading reason why women leave large firms, while minorities often report feeling socially isolated and lacking mentors.

The OnRamp Fellowship, launched earlier this year, enables women lawyers to update their skills and professional networks and prepares them for leadership roles within the profession. It is loosely based on reentry programs in the corporate and financial worlds.

“I really didn’t see a pathway back into Big Law,” de la Rosa said. “But this program has just been fabulous. It’s great to be able to commit to the work without feeling guilty.”

Four law firms hosted the first nine fellows: Baker Botts; Cooley; Hogan Lovells; and Sidley. But interest has been so high — more than 30 large firms expressed interest — that Stacy announced on Sept. 22 that 11 additional large firms would offer fellowships, for a total of 75 positions around the country. Those firms are Akerman; Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berko­witz; Blank Rome; Crowell & Moring; Fenwick & West; Fish & Richardson; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Jenner & Block; K&L Gates; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; and White & Case.


“I had a little trepidation initially, wondering, ‘Are women going to want to come back?’ To my surprise and delight, 170 applied for the first nine spots,” Stacy said. “Many of these women are still ­balancing work and home, just as they were five or 10 years ago when they left, but this gives them the chance to see if they can balance things better.”

One-third of the fellowship applicants thus far have been racially diverse attorneys, Stacy said. The same proportion won fellowships.

There was a single African-American partner at the large New York firm where Dana Glenn worked as an associate in 2000 after graduating from Fordham University School of Law. She quit after two years to be closer to family in Michi­gan and ultimately left the profession for 10 years. She decided to reenter the practice in 2010 and landed at Hogan Lovells on an OnRamp fellowship.

“I didn’t really think it would be that hard to get back into it, but it was quite difficult,” she said. “You are behind in the law and you are competing with people right out of law school, which is a big challenge. Then you have to deal with people who don’t believe that you’re serious about coming back.”

Her recent experience has been positive thus far, in part because of the support the OnRamp program offers fellows in the form of mentors, webinars and support from other fellows, Glenn said. She found the firm and the profession had grown more serious about diversity in her absence.

“They thought the biggest challenges would be getting updated on the law, but it’s the technology or firm systems that are more challenging than they expected,” Stacy said. “You no longer go to a file room. You go into a document management system.”

Bloomberg Businessweek, “Firms Hiring Women Returning to Practice: Business of Law”

Caren Ulrich Stacy worked in recruiting, professional development and “everything relating to the life cycle of an attorney” as she describes her decades-long career in law firms that included Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Arnold & Porter LLP.

Last year, while working for a consulting firm that researched law firm metrics, she saw a gap. Law firms, after years of retrenchment, needed to hire, and some women, after years of staying home, wanted a way to return to work.

She came up with the idea for the OnRamp Fellowship.

“The first thing I did was to call every consultant I thought was good and asked if they would help these women if I could find firms to hire them.” she said. “They all said yes, and agreed to donate their time.”

She then asked four firms — Baker Botts LLP, Cooley LLP, Hogan Lovells LLP and Sidley Austin LLP — to take part in the experiment and they all agreed.

The program, launched in January, has so far placed nine women returning to practice in one-year fellowships. One hadn’t practiced law for 21 years.

This week, 11 additional firms joined the program. Those firms — Akerman LLP, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC; Blank Rome LLP; Crowell & Moring LLP; Fenwick & West LLP; Fish & Richardson PC; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Jenner & Block LLP; K&L Gates LLP; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; and White & Case LLP — along with the original four — are now posting more than 75 jobs on the program’s website, Stacy said in a telephone interview.

Securing a job is rigorous. Applicants must go through a three-hour screening, which includes a personality and skills assessment, writing test, culture questionnaire and behavioral interview.

Law firms also are vetted, in a sense. Firms “must agree to do a cultural analysis so we can make sure the candidate will be a good fit. And, we do a ‘bright spot’ analysis as well where we interview the firm’s best lawyers to understand what they do to make them successful,” Stacy said.

The women are interviewed by lawyers at the firm and those who are selected as fellows are provided with a partner who acts as an adviser, an external career counselor, unlimited online continuing legal education through the Practicing Law Institute, and a variety of training from experts in areas like negotiations and technology, she said.

The firms and the lawyers have been flexible in figuring out their roles and their salaries. While they might be considered mid-level associates, Stacy explained, “the pay is less because the billable-hour requirement is less, as is the billable rate.”

Two law schools have programs for lawyers with gaps who want to return to practice. Pace School of Law in New York runs “New Directions for Attorneys,” a part-time, five-month program that combines classes with internships. Washington College of Law of American University has a “lawyer re-entry program” as well.

The nine original OnRamp fellows are all working full time. Stacy says she’s pleased with the program, while acknowledging the hiccups along the way. Technology is often the biggest hurdle, she said, but because the women are smart, they have adapted.

One of the women, in her first week at work, was stymied when a partner asked to “PDF something.” The woman, she said, “didn’t know if PDF was a noun or a verb. Fortunately she Googled it and figured it out pretty quickly.”

The Recorder, “OnRamp Program Adds More Destinations”

SAN FRANCISCO — After four years in Big Law, Lori Trujillo took a career hiatus to raise her two children. When she tried to return to work three years later, she found her stint away from the law made the job search difficult.

“Compared to somebody else who has the same qualifications but no gap in her resume, it can be harder to get interviewed,” said Trujillo. In May, she started a paid one-year fellowship—or returnship—in Sidley Austin’s Los Angeles corporate and intellectual property practice, one of the first lawyers placed by The OnRamp Fellowship program. The program is designed to help women who are reentering the profession after taking time off.

On Monday, OnRamp said it had signed up 11 more law firms for its program, creating more than 50 new fellowships across the country. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Fenwick & West are among the new participants. OnRamp founder Caren Ulrich Stacy said the program’s initial draw was overwhelming. OnRamp received more than 170 applications for nine fellowships at participating firms Cooley, Baker Botts, Hogan Lovells and Sidley.

Stacy, a legal professional development consultant, said participants’ reasons for leaving the law range from having to care for a child or ailing relative to pursuing a new career or degree. Whatever their reasons for leaving, Big Law’s traditional track system can make reentry difficult.

Because Big Law recruiting is typically aimed at law school graduates and lateral hires, attorneys returning from a career hiatus may feel they are not invited to apply for open positions, explained Don Keller, a partner in Orrick’s Silicon Valley office.

New openings in California are in Baker Botts’ Palo Alto office, Fenwick’s Silicon Valley office, Sidley’s San Francisco office, Orrick’s offices in San Francisco and Silicon Valley and Cooley’s offices in San Diego, Palo Alto and San Francisco. Both new applicants and women who applied in the initial draw will be considered, Stacy said.

Other firms that joined the program on Monday include Akerman; Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz; Blank Rome; Crowell & Moring; Fish & Richardson; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Jenner & Block; K&L Gates; and White & Case.

Contact the reporter at

Law360, “BigLaw ‘Returnship’ Program for Women Attys Expands”

Law360, New York (September 22, 2014, 12:02 PM ET) — BigLaw’s first fellowship program to bring women who took breaks from legal careers back to law firm jobs is set for a major expansion, the program founder announced Monday.

After launching in the spring with women fellows placed at four firms, the OnRamp Fellowship says 11 additional firms have committed to filling more than 50 positions in Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Nashville and several other cities.

Applying lawyers are required to have three years of professional experience and have been on hiatus for at least two years. Each firm pays their fellows’ stipend — $125,000 with benefits in most markets, or $85,000 in some smaller markets — on a one-year contract.

“By participating in the first ‘returnship’ ever launched in the legal field, these 15 law firms are trailblazers,” Stacy said in a statement. “They are benefiting the profession as well as their own firms by forging a new pathway back for women lawyers who took a break and want to return.”

The four original firms — Baker Botts LLPCooley LLPHogan Lovells, and Sidley Austin LLP — already placed nine OnRamp fellows this year, and will continue to participate in the expanded pilot program.

The new additions are Akerman LLPBaker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC,Blank Rome LLPCrowell & Moring LLPFenwick & West LLPFish & Richardson PC,Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLPJenner & Block LLPK&L Gates LLPOrrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and White & Case LLP.

“As a firm that is committed to the progression of women at all levels, Cooley is excited to see the momentum being generated by the OnRamp Fellowship,” said Cooley CEO Joe Conroy. “We are proud to have been one of the pioneering firms to support the fellowship, and we wish it every success as the program expands into its second phase.”

The program was modeled after “returnships” offered at companies like Goldman Sachs & Co. and is intended to provide re-entry to women who took time off for family or other obligations, and to seek out applicants with firm leadership potential.

Fellowship administrators conduct an “organizational culture analysis” and study high-performers at participating firms as part of the matching process.

Applicants also complete a personality and skills assessment and a writing exam, among other tests. Once placed, fellows are provided a partner adviser, a career counselor and unlimited continuing legal education, as well as training in areas like social media.

The original fellow practice areas have expanded from corporate, litigation, trademark, finance and real estate to include emerging companies, U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory, employment, securities and tax.