All posts by Caren

Ms. J.D., “Fellowship for Women Lawyers Re-Entering Practice is a Big Success”

OnRamp Fellowship for Women Lawyers Re-Entering Practice Is a Big Success

Finally.  Yes, finally we are seeing some progress addressing the very low retention rates for women lawyers — even if it is in the form of mitigation.  Getting back into law practice after being absent for any significant amount of time is tough going, and there has not been a lot of progress on that issue in the past.  Years ago, maybe 2008, I was a panelist in a program at Washington School of Law at American University on the subject of re-entry.  The personal stories from program participants were chilling for anyone hoping to make that happen.  Other law schools have experimented with similar programs, which are credible attempts to address a critical issue for women lawyers, but, to my knowledge, those programs have not produced great results in terms of re-entry.  Almost every conference I attend on women in law also addresses the issue, but, until now, it has just been a restatement of the same old problem.

Now comes something different and long overdue.  In a former blog I introduced you to the OnRamp Fellowship, a program supported by four law firms — Baker Botts, Sidley, Cooley and Hogan Lovells — to help women lawyers, who have left practice, re-enter the profession.  This is the first program of its kind EVER in the legal profession.  As an innovative concept, this is BIG, and the only thing that I can find wrong with it is that I did not think of it myself!

Launched in January 2014, this new program gives the participating lawyers an opportunity to update their skills and their legal contacts through one-year paid positions with top law firms.  The program is completely responsive to the low retention rates for women lawyers and the talent drain that Best Friends at the Bar addresses, and I am happy to report that nine women lawyers have been selected by the sponsoring law firms from a pool of 170 applicants as part of the 2014-2015 OnRamp Fellowship.

The quality of the applicants was so impressive that the participating firms ended up choosing two or three participants each for the program, even though the firms had initially expected to choose only one each.  This, of course, is not surprising!  Women lawyers are very dedicated and talented, and they are more than worthy of the investment.

And, in recognition of the value of the OnRamp Fellowship program, several of the firms have indicated an interest in offering additional fellowships for the Fall of 2014. Consistent with that interest and enthusiasm, a second phase of the OnRamp Fellowship is in the planning phase, and details are expected to be announced within the next few months.  Stay tuned to Best Friends at the Bar for more information.

“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,” says Caren Ulrich Stacy, Founder of the OnRamp Fellowship.

Hear, hear.  I am so pleased to see this program get off the ground in grand style, and I applaud all of the participants.  According to their profiles, the chosen women had spent the “off ramp” years, which ranged in length from three to twenty years, continuing to develop their leadership and development skills in non-profits, political endeavors and gaining advanced degrees.  This kind of involvement during hiatus is something that Best Friends at the Bar always has emphasized and recommended.  Sometimes the only choice is to leave, but how you leave and how you fill the years while you are gone very often determine success for re-entry.

The OnRamp Fellowship is an excellent example of women lawyers and law firms working together for solutions.  The way I see it, Best Friends at the Bar and the OnRamp Fellowship is a perfect fit.

Hold that thought!

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women’s issues and the law profession.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit

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

9 Female Attorneys Tapped For New BigLaw ‘Returnship’ Program

By Andrew Strickler

For full story:

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.

Contact the reporter at


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

Full Story:


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.


ABA Journal, “New OnRamp Program Offers $125K Fellowships to Lawyers Returning to Workforce”


New OnRamp program offers $125K fellowships to 10 lawyers

returning to workforce

Posted Mar 20, 2014 5:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

Link to Full Story

Four law firms will be offering one-year paid fellowships this year to lawyers who want to return to the workforce.

The OnRamp fellowships are among several programs that are designed to help highly educated professionals return to jobs after time off to care for parents or children, the New York Times reports. Among the financial firms offering return-to-work programs are Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan and Credit Suisse, the story says.

The law firms participating in the OnRamp fellowship program are Cooley, Baker Botts, Sidley Austin and Hogan Lovells, according to the fellowship website. Thirteen additional firms have also inquired about the program, thewebsite says, and there will likely be a second program beginning this fall. Crain’s New York Business and the Am Law Daily (sub. req.) also published stories about the program.

More than 170 women applied for 10 spots in the program. Applicants had to pay $250 for an initial assessment, but the 10 people chosen for the fellowships will receive an annual salary of $125,000, plus benefits, Crain’s New York Business says.

Several applicants had completed a Pace Law School program to help attorneys return to the profession, the Times says. Students in the Pace program pay $7,000 for more than two months in the classroom where they polish their legal skills.

Caren Ulrich Stacy, a legal-human-resources executive, created the OnRamp fellowships. “I got tired of seeing women with really good resumés who we recruited out of school, but when they took a break to raise children, they couldn’t get back in,” Stacy told Crain’s New York Business. “If they were so good after school, they should still be highly recruited.”

New York Times, “Helping Women Get Back in the Game”

Helping Women Get Back in the Game

Andrea Chermayeff planned to go back to work when the youngest of her four children enrolled in school last fall. With a Harvard M.B.A. and experience at a private equity firm, she had the credentials to return to Wall Street. The only problem was explaining a 15-year gap on her résumé.

To help get started, Ms. Chermayeff attended a program at Harvard Business School for professional women looking to return to work after taking a career break. She picked up tips on how to prepare a résumé and handle interview questions about her absence. But the big break in her job search came while sitting next to another mother at her son’s baseball game near her home in Rowayton, Conn.

“I told her that I was thinking about going back to work,” Ms. Chermayeff, 43, said. “We had never spoken about business before. She was a high-ranking executive at JPMorgan Chase and she told me about a new program at JPMorgan that she thought would suit my needs.”

Ms. Chermayeff applied and was selected from among 200 applicants for the first class of 10 women in JPMorgan’s work force re-entry program last September. After completing a 10-week internship, she landed a full-time job as a business manager for JPMorgan’s U.S. Private Bank.

“I told my part-time babysitter, congratulations,” Ms. Chermayeff said. “You also now have a full-time job. “

Many women trying to return to work after a break have found it difficult to figure out how to navigate their way back in. JPMorgan’s effort is one of several small but growing programs started within the last year to help highly educated and accomplished women, like Ms. Chermayeff, return to jobs they left in finance and at law firms to care for children or aging parents.

At least four big law firms, including Baker Botts and Sidley Austin, are offering one-year paid internships starting this summer, with an opportunity for full-time work.

On Wall Street, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse have also started similar efforts in recent months; Goldman Sachs in 2008 was the first bank to offer such a program. Now more than 120 graduates work in full-time positions at the bank.

The reason is simple, said Peg Sullivan, global head of talent management at Morgan Stanley: “We are always looking for great talent, top talent wherever we can find it.”

At Morgan Stanley, 15 women selected from more than 500 applicants started last month in the firm’s first 12-week re-entry program in New York. Before receiving their work assignments, they attended an intensive orientation program.

“We were pretty flexible about how long people have been out,” Ms. Sullivan said. “They needed to be ready to come to work, ready to engage. And they are. They are ready to give it 100 percent.”

While companies are offering flexible schedules, backup child care and other accommodations, the demanding work schedules for people in the financial services industry and big law firms are daunting for even the most committed employees.

study of high-achieving women found that 31 percent voluntarily left the work force between 2004 and 2009, primarily for child care reasons, according to an analysis by the Center for Work-Life Policy, now known as the Center for Talent Innovation.

After career breaks averaging two and a half years, 89 percent said they wanted to return, the study found. But only 40 percent managed to find what they regarded as a good full-time job in the sector of their choice.

“There is no easy way to access the opportunities as a returnee,” said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an author of the study and chairman and chief executive of the Center for Talent Innovation. “These are very bright women and the business of reskilling is quick and seamless.”

Recognizing the challenges of returning to work, even after short breaks,Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin, both graduates of Harvard Business School, wrote a book for women, “Back on the Career Track” (2007), and started a conference business,

“You get really overwhelmed by all the issues about returning to work,” said Ms. Cohen, who left her job in finance to focus on raising four children during her 11 years out of the work force. “It is hard to separate the real ones that are emotional versus the actual conversations that you might have.”

Of course, not all new parents or people in need of a leave to care for children or aging parents can afford a timeout. Most women in the workplace see little or no choice about returning to full-time work after their maternity leave ends, with so many families today relying on two incomes to get by. In 40 percent of households with children under the age of 18, married and single mothers are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center analysis.

Betsy Myers, the founding director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University, said women filled about half of the middle-management ranks in many companies today. “Then there is a drop-off,” she said. “They go from 50 percent to 10 percent to 15 percent of women in their C-suite jobs.”

She said companies were recognizing they had to do more to retain women managers to get balanced leadership at the top. One of the most important ways, she said, is to show how much company leaders value employees considering a hiatus.

Ms. Myers, author of the book “Take The Lead,” also said that both men and women needed to be involved in figuring how to create a work force with gender balance. So do different generations, she said, given the rise of millennials in the workplace and their expectations of living a more balanced life.

In a reflection of this, the women’s employee affinity network at the bank HSBC changed its name, she said. “They call it the Balance Affinity Network,” she said. “They want to invite men to the table and the different generations. They want to create a culture where it is not just, ‘How do we keep women?’ but ‘How do we harness the best talent in our company where people will want to stay?’ ”

For experienced lawyers with a career gap, Caren Ulrich Stacy has created the OnRamp Fellowship. Four big law firms have joined the program and more than a dozen others have expressed interest recently, she said. Applications for the first group of fellows were due in early March.

Ms. Stacy, who has hired thousands of lawyers as a recruitment expert over nearly two decades, said she found it difficult to find firms willing to hire experienced lawyers with career gaps.

“These are women with very impressive backgrounds,” Ms. Stacy said. Under the program, the one-year fellowships pay $125,000. While the salary is lower than the typical $160,000 paid to associates just out of law school, the hope is that fellows will be offered permanent positions at the end of a year.

Several applicants were women who recently completed the New Directions for Attorneys program that Pace Law School started in 2007 to help people return to the legal profession. The program, which costs about $7,000, is offered twice a year, according to Amy Gewirtz-McGahan, the director.

Students spend two and a half months in the classroom, polishing their legal research, technology and writing skills. Then they get an internship, expand their network and eventually return to work.

“It was a tremendously successful experience for me,” said Erica Fitzgerald,39, of Mamaroneck, N.Y., who enrolled in the program last September. A former assistant district attorney in the Bronx, she took off 12 years to raise two sons. She is now working at Littman Krooks, a law firm in nearby White Plains.

But the program, while useful, has not helped Lisa Peterson, 52, of Larchmont, N.Y., land a full-time job, she said. She has been focusing her search on the nonprofit sector. “I am finding it very challenging to find paid employment,” said Ms. Peterson, a graduate of Brown University and New York University Law School who worked eight years at Paul Weiss before leaving after her second child was born in 1994.

“I met with someone a month ago, and she read a list of questions. One was, ‘What is your five-year plan?’ Well, I want to do something. I want an encore career that has purpose and meaning.”

For Ms. Chermayeff, now at JPMorgan, the transition has gone smoothly at work and at home. “It is a new normal that we are trying to get to,” she said about her family. “They are at home. They are at school. I am at work. I have not disappeared. I took a job.”

The experiences of the women following are similar.

Arlene Houston, 43

In 2004, Arlene Houston was working in leveraged finance for a private equity firm in Manhattan when her father died, leaving her ill mother alone in Oklahoma City.

“I was the only child, and I lived 1,500 miles away,” Ms. Houston said. “I was working 80 hours a week. It was not easy.”

Ms. Houston, who came to New York in 1996 after earning an M.B.A. and law degree from Duke University, decided to take a year off to help get her mother’s health back on track. “Then I was going to go back into the industry or do something else,” she said. “That was the plan.”

After working as a freelance business consultant for more than three years, Ms. Houston was ready to return to Wall Street. In 2008, a friend had told her about a new re-entry program at Goldman Sachs starting in September for about a dozen people. She was accepted and after completing the 10-week program, she took a full-time position as a vice president.

Now, Ms. Houston is a vice president in equity derivatives operations and says she has struck a good balance for her life. She has since moved her mother to Manhattan. “I still have the flexibility to maintain my mother’s care,” she said. “That’s important.”

Virginia Ryan, 54


Lawyer at Barnard College, Columbia University

Virginia Ryan continued to work part time at a law firm for about six months after her first child was born. She left in 1996. She had two more children. “I got very busy,” she said. “I was in the thick of it.”

Then, a couple of years ago, she woke up one morning with a great sense of urgency. “I felt the clock ticking, and I felt that I had to get a job right now or I would never get one.“

Ms. Ryan spent a year trying to figure out what to do, with little success. “I was stuck. I was completely stuck.” She signed up for Pace Law School’s New Directions program, which helps experienced lawyers refresh their skills and find internships. She landed one at Barnard College, where she had received her B.A.

Now, Ms. Ryan is working there part time and also has a part-time job at Columbia University, not far from her Upper West Side home.

“Dinner conversation is now, ‘What did you do at work?’ “ she said. “I think I see glimmers of pride. A little bit of amusement. It has been extremely gratifying to have that with my children.”

Hope Tully, 49

Katonah, N.Y.

Relationship manager for JPMorgan’s U.S. Funds

Born and raised in the Philippines, Hope Tully was determined to earn an M.B.A. in the United States. She did, at Harvard, graduating in 1992. She then went to work on Citibank’s derivatives desk, spending seven years until she left in 1999 after her second child. “I was going to take two years off and then come back,” she said.

But then she learned that one of her daughters has a rare disease. “With this sort of challenge thrown to our family, my husband and I decided to focus our energy on this area.”

Four months later, they organized an international medical conference on the disease, the first of several she would organize even as her husband’s job took the family to London.

In 2011, the Tullys returned to New York. Two independent drug trials had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “The stars were kind of aligned. This was really the right time for me to go back to work,” she said.

She learned about the JPMorgan program last year through the Harvard Business School alumni organization. She now works in the global strategy group.

“To be honest with you, I thought there would be more of an adjustment than there has been,” she said. “It is like learning how to ride a bike. Once you get back on it, you can ride it. And that is what I felt coming back.”

Kristen Marx, 45

New Rochelle, N.Y.

Morgan Stanley re-entry program participant

Nine months ago, Kristen Marx began applying online for jobs at various Wall Street firms but nothing came from that. She had loved her job as a vice president in asset management at Goldman Sachs. But after the birth of her second son in 2002, she gave up the long hours and commute from Westchester.

“I always knew that I wanted to come back,” said Ms. Marx, who began working in financial services in 1994 after graduating from Providence College. Her boys are now 14, 11 and 8. “I never thought I would be out that long.”

She reached out to former colleagues for advice. Last fall, she attended the conference at New York University and learned about re-entry programs at firms including Morgan Stanley. “It took me a minute to send a résumé,” she said.

In February, Ms. Marx began Morgan Stanley’s 12-week program. She is focused on landing a full-time position at the end of it. “It is a good feeling to know there’s a force behind you that wants you to succeed,” she said. “I wanted to come back. I just didn’t have a natural path to get back to the work force.”

Crain’s New York Business, “Law Firms Offer Trial for Women Returning to Work”

Law firms offer trial for women returning to work

To boost the number one women at big law firms, some are creating programs geared towards those returning to the workplace.

Link to Full Story

Finance isn’t the only industry trying to bring women back. Law firms are taking a step in this direction, too.

The OnRamp Fellowship, a program for lawyers who want to return to the workforce, started taking applications in January for fellowships to begin this summer at four major national law firms. Three of them—Baker Botts, Cooley and Sidley Austin—have openings for fellows in New York.

The program was started by Caren Ulrich Stacy, a legal-human-resources executive, to boost the number of women at big law firms. Though the drop has been slight, the representation of women among associates has been declining for the past four years, according to the Association for Legal Career Professionals. In 2013, 44.79% of associates at law firms were women, down from 45.05% the year before and 45.66% in 2009.

“I got tired of seeing women with really good résumés who we recruited out of school, but when they took a break to raise children, they couldn’t get back in,” Ms. Stacy said. “If they were so good after school, they should still be highly recruited.”

More than 170 women have applied for roughly 10 spots for the one-year fellowships. Applicants have to pay $250 to cover the cost of an initial assessment, but those who are chosen will receive a $125,000 salary, plus benefits, for the year.

Sheila Beail Bridges worked for several top New York firms, including Weil Gotshall and Manges, before she had her daughter nearly six years ago. But the long hours and guilt over leaving her baby pushed her to quit her job. Now that her daughter is a little older, she feels ready to jump back in. She is applying for a fellowship and believes it is the only way women can get back into the big law firms.

“I was a complete type-A overachiever who was on this career path, and then I started a family, and I was emotional and guilt-ridden,” Ms. Bridges said. “But your perspective changes as your child gets older, and now I really want back in, and there should be space for that. It’s not that we cease to exist just because we took a few years off.”

Harvard Business Review, “40 Year Old Intern Goes to Wall Street”

Full Link:


The “40-Year-Old Intern” Goes to Wall Street

by Carol Fishman Cohen  |   10:00 AM February 24, 2014

In mid-September 2013, 10 professionals returning from multi-year career breaks walked into 270 Park Avenue in New York City to begin the J.P. Morgan ReEntry Program. Elsewhere on Wall Street, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse have recently initiated internship programs for return-to-work professionals. The Onramp Fellowship for returning lawyers, backed by four major law firms in 15 cities, opened for applications last month, and MetLife just announced a similar program to commence this spring.

In the six years I have been tracking return-to-work programs, I have never seen five, new, big-employer returning professional internship programs debut in such a short span. And last week J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s Head of Diversity Gordon Cooper told me his firm is now introducing a Legal ReEntry Program. (In full disclosure, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, MetLife, Morgan Stanley, and Onramp Fellowship have all worked with my firm.)

In November 2012, I wrote an article for HBR about the emergence of returning professional internship programs across a wide range of sectors: for-profit, non-profit, military and academic institutions. At the time, Goldman Sachs’ Returnship was the only thriving, return-to-work internship program at a large company. To date, 123 “returnees” have participated in the 10 week Goldman program in the U.S., and roughly 50% have been hired into permanent positions. The three new Wall Street programs follow a similar formula to Returnship in terms of timing and small class size. All of the programs are paid.

The OnRamp Fellowship operates on a different model.  Applicants pay a $250 fee to cover the cost of career development assessments, but those who are selected receive a $125,000 work and training fellowship, plus benefits, for their first year at one of four major law firms: Baker Botts, Cooley, Hogan Lovells, and Sidley Austin. Applications are being accepted until March 7 and fellowships begin this summer.

What triggered all of this activity? Why now? J.P. Morgan’s Cooper explains it this way: “Many companies are waking up to the incredible amount of untapped talent that has left Wall Street firms.” The Onramp Fellowship’s Caren Ulrich Stacy adds: “This year marks the fourth consecutive annual decline in the number of mid- to senior-level female associates in large law firms. We need a way to replenish this pipeline, and fast. The Fellowship was built to increase gender diversity in law firms while also giving women who want to return after a hiatus an opportunity to expand their skills, experience, and legal contracts as they re-enter.”

Now that the economy is stable enough for companies to look beyond the recession, we are seeing a renewed focus on building pipelines with the top candidates from all recruiting pools, including the returning professional pool.  Forward thinking companies have long recognized that the return-to-work demographic, composed primarily of women who took time off to care for children, is full of high achievers. “This talent pool is especially strong, and we expect our Return to Work Program to uncover some exceptional individuals who will contribute greatly to the Firm,” says Susan Reid, Morgan Stanley’s Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion. At Credit Suisse, firm representatives characterized their Real Returns program as an “opportunity to connect with a highly skilled and untapped diversity pool.”

Recruiting professionals at the end of career breaks, when they are largely done with maternity leaves and spousal job relocations, is a smart strategy.  The use of internships as a testing ground helps remove any perceived risk that some managers may associate with hiring from this pool, and gives the participants a gradual and structured ramping-up platform.  The internship allows the employer to base the permanent hiring decision on work product and a longer opportunity to get to know a prospective employee, instead of a short series of interviews. As one hiring manager commented “I wish I could hire everyone this way.”

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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.

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