Link to Article: https://store.law.com/Registration/Login.aspx?mode=silent&refDomain=store.corpcounsel.com&source=http://www.corpcounsel.com/id=1202791209392/Amazons-GC-on-NoLose-Talent-Program-in-Legal-Department
Law360, New York (September 23, 2015, 10:42 PM ET) — A “returnship” fellowship program that helps female attorneys return to high-level legal positions after taking time off from BigLaw is continuing to grow, making its first forays into corporate law departments.
The OnRamp Fellowship program, launched with the backing of just four firms last year, has added six additional participants — bringing the total number of firm backers to 25 — and is set to see its first in-house fellows at Amazon.com Inc. and Barclays, program founder Caren Ulrich Stacy told Law360 this week.
The latest BigLaw additions to the program are Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Loeb & Loeb LLP, Stoel Rives LLP,Wiley Rein LLP and Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dickler LLP, adding to 19 previously participating firms.
“These firms are taking action and doing something that will actually move the needle for women in the industry’s mid- to senior-level ranks,” Stacy said. “At this point I think firms are seeing this as a proven concept and a way to get to an untapped group of talent.”
Amazon has posted potential fellowship spots in digital, Web services and intellectual property, and Barclays has three OnRamp fellowship opportunities in a New York compliance group.
David Zapolsky, senior vice president and general counsel for Amazon, praised the program in a statement.
“Consistent with our commitment to hire and develop the best, we try to access as many different sources of great talent as possible,” he said. “We’re excited to partner with the OnRamp Fellowship because it will give us the chance to work with a traditionally underutilized and undervalued pool of outstanding and diverse lawyers.”
With some first-wave OnRamp lawyers already having moved into full-time roles, Stacy estimated that 50 female attorneys transitioning back to practice, many after extended breaks to support families, would be in position for permanent jobs after completing the fellowship next year.
The four initial OnRamp backers — Baker Botts LLP, Cooley LLP, Hogan Lovells and Sidley Austin LLP — are continuing to participate. Sidley has made four of its seven fellows permanent; the three others have not yet completed the program, she said. Cooley has also seen a San Francisco fellow move onto a permanent role in a trusts and estate practice at another firm.
Modeled on other returnship programs offered at companies like Goldman Sachs Group Inc., OnRamp fellowships provide a $125,000 stipend with benefits for a one-year contract.
Previous OnRamp expansions have brought in Akerman LLP, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, Blank Rome LLP, Covington & Burling LLP, Crowell & Moring LLP, Fenwick & West LLP, Fish & Richardson PC, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLP, Fox Rothschild LLP, Goodwin Procter LLP, Jenner & Block LLP, K&L Gates LLP, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and White & Case LLP.
All together, the participating firms and law departments have posted about 150 jobs in 33 cities in a range of practice areas, including litigation, tax, antitrust, compliance, corporate, emerging companies, finance, employment, real estate, and mergers and acquisitions.
–Editing by Mark Lebetkin.
Click to read the full story — Story Link.
Full Story Link: http://www.chicagolawbulletin.com/Articles/2015/01/30/OnRamp-Fellowship-01-30-15.aspx
For female lawyers who left the workforce, ‘returnship’ can be a huge boost
BY JAMIE LOO, LAW BULLETIN STAFF WRITER
A few years ago, when Pamela L. Zdunek began considering a return to the legal profession after a 21-year absence, the economy had just tanked.
A career counselor told her even recent Harvard Law School graduates couldn’t get jobs as paralegals, much less lawyers with 20 years of experience.
“Needless to say, that was a bleak time for me,” she said. “I just didn’t see how I would ever get back into the legal profession to practice — and certainly not at a firm.”
About a year ago, Zdunek met a woman at a networking event who suggested she apply for an OnRamp Fellowship, a new program designed to help women re- enter the legal profession.
After landing a spot in the inaugural class and spending her fellowship at Sidley, Austin LLP, she’s now been hired as a full- time associate at the firm.
Zdunek was part of a panel on law firm “returnship” programs Thursday, sponsored by the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives and held at Locke, Lord, Edwards LLP.
Law firm attorney-development professionals and corporate career re-entry experts spoke about the benefits of such programs to law firms, including maintaining a leadership pipeline and giving a talented attorney an opportunity to return to the workforce.
In her more than 20 years of experience in lawyer recruitment and development at big law firms, Caren Ulrich Stacey said she often had to make an extra effort to convince practice group leaders to consider a female applicant with a gap on her resume.
With that in mind, Stacey founded the Boulder, Colo.-based OnRamp program last year to help female attorneys looking to re-enter the workforce — women she refers to as “returners.”
An important part of preparing law firms for placing such women was interviewing managing partners and other lawyers to find out what makes attorneys successful in an organization for the long term.
“The things that have made these attorneys most successful are not their technical skills, it’s not their lawyering skills,” she said. “It’s their mindset, it’s their attitude, it’s how they’ve figured out how to manage home and work.”
Those conversations, Stacey said, helped staff at the firms recognize the value of returners’ skills, which fosters a more welcoming workplace environment that makes it easier for program participants to transition back in.
A returnship program is a low-risk investment for law firms, Stacey said, because it gives them a chance to see a participant’s work product and doesn’t require them to hire the person at the end.
OnRamp rigorously screens its participants and works with firms to find a fellow that is the right fit for them.
The program requires firms to provide an opportunity to the
fellow to work on complex legal projects and a partner adviser that can provide support and feedback.
Firms pay a $125,000 stipend to the returner, which Stacey said alleviates concerns about billable-hour quotas and a set billing rate. While clients are sometimes unwilling to pay high rates for work by inexperienced associates, the set stipend encourages them to want fellows working on their matters.
“I wanted to make the risk so low for both the law firm and the client that they could say ‘put the fellow on it’ because they know she’s good, she’s got experience,” Stacey said.
The stipend is less than the salary of a first- or second-year Big Law associate, Stacey said, and many fellows said they’re comfortable with that because it erases some of the guilt they feel about their work capabilities.
If a group is working until 2 a.m., for example, that lesser pay grade makes it more comfortable for a returner to leave work at 11 p.m. if she needs to.
While many people think men in an organization are the biggest obstacle to returnship programs, Stacey said, many are surprisingly their biggest supporters.
“They see their wives having these issues, their sisters and they’re worried about their daughters having this issue,” she said. “So they have been fully embracing it.”
Stacey has seen friction with some women who didn’t stop working to raise their families, perhaps irritated that other women made that choice and are now trying to return. The key, she said, is confronting those tensions immediately and discussing them honestly and openly.
Eventually, the program began to attract clients’ attention, Stacey said. Some began to request a fellow work on their case, as they were curious about the program. Some have contacted Stacey about developing similar programs in their internal legal departments.
Participants in the pilot stage of the program last year were Sidley; Baker, Botts LLP; Cooley LLP; and Hogan, Lovells.
Zdunek, who was the only Chicago-based fellow last year, and four other fellows have all been hired into full-time positions by their firms. Fifteen firms have signed onto the program for this year and are offering 80 positions in 24 cities.
The program does require a time investment to develop internal support for the fellows and set up coaching and training systems, said Sidley partner Elizabeth K. McCloy. Some fellows are trying out new practice areas, she said, and firms need to be patient as they catch up on changes in the law and new technology.
The bigger time commitment is getting others in the firm onboard and telling them about the program so a fellow doesn’t have to explain herself and her role constantly.
A common issue in law firms, McCloy said, is creating a pipeline to leadership for women, and the OnRamp program’s goal to bring talented women back into the workforce is part of a solution.
“They can serve and have served as mentors to our associates,” she said. “It’s a twist that not many people think of, and I think it’s important to see that side of it as well.”
Panelists also offered advice to women who are preparing to leave the profession and those looking to re-enter.
Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of the career re-entry website iRelaunch, said women should plan on doing quality work right before leaving so they’re leaving a strong impression of themselves on fellow colleagues and managers.
That helps when reconnecting with people, she said, and those contacts build personal self-confidence for re-entry.
Cohen said women should focus on maintaining relationships with people at all levels of an organization.
“Be aware of people who are junior to you,” she said. “Because those junior people will be moving up while you’re on a career break and sometimes will be in a position to open a door for you.”
These connections can also help overcome a resume gap and recruiters’ concerns about an applicant being overqualified. Rather than trying to go through a recruiter, Cohen said, it’s more beneficial to use personal connections and social networking to get an initial interview.
Being up front with a hiring manager that you’re pursuing a certain position because it’s the right fit for you and your current life stage and obligations can make a big difference, she said.
“Sometimes, employers just need to hear that directly from you,” she said.
Cohen said the financial services industry — firms such as Deloitte, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs — and academia have embraced returnship programs, and she anticipates more industries will catch onto it in the future.
The legal industry now has plenty of returnship models to draw from, Stacey said, it’s now just a matter of firms making a commitment to launch them.
Returners should also have confidence and not be afraid to jump back in, she said.
“Your heads did not roll off your bodies just because you took a break,” she said. “Part of my job is to get employers to see what you bring to the table now and even do better.”
BigLaw ‘Returnship’ Program Gears Up For Expansion
By Melissa Maleske
Law360, New York (January 30, 2015, 4:49 PM ET) -- A year after its launch, law firms are lining up to join BigLaw’s first fellowship program to help women who took breaks from legal careers transition back to law firms, the program’s founder said Thursday.
Since the OnRamp Fellowship’s four-firm launch, 11 more firms have joined the effort and another 15 have asked to participate, founder Caren Ulrich Stacy told fellow panelists and audience members at Thursday’s panel discussion “Attorneys in Transition: Returnships” at Locke Lord LLP in Chicago.
“We will likely expand, albeit slowly, with five more firms in the next month or so,” she said. “We are also likely adding legal departments to the mix later this year.”
The OnRamp program grants fellowships within law firms to women returning to full-time legal careers after taking long hiatuses, often to raise children or care for other relatives. There were nine fellows in OnRamp’s inaugural 2014 class, and the program placed five more in January.
“Our hope is to bring back 40 to 50 women into the profession by year-end,” Stacy said.
The fellowship is similar to a law firm summer associate program, with attorneys working for discrete periods within law firms. It serves almost as an extended interview for potential future permanent employment.
The program aims to address a leak in the pipeline that results in far more male partners in law firms than women, even when firms hire both sexes in equal numbers.
Stacy said employers don’t have to wait for OnRamp’s capacity to grow. She encouraged law firms and other employers to use OnRamp as a model, emphasizing that they need to put in the work for it to succeed.
The OnRamp fellowships hinge not just on placement in a top law firm but also on the support the OnRampers receive leading up to and during their fellowship, from resume and interview advice to mentorship and feedback throughout year.
Fellows are readied for their return to the workplace with advice and crash courses that range from CLE-eligible legal refreshers to tips on what to wear to an interview in 2015.
Sidley Austin LLP has four OnRamp fellows, and Sidley partner Liz McCloy said it was important to vet the candidates to find the best fit for each participating firm and to mentor the fellows throughout their year.
The firms need to educate their people, too. Interviewers should know the candidate is not a typical lateral hire, for instance.
McCloy also said that since the firms make no commitment to hire the fellow, they have little to lose. OnRamp requires that law firms pay the fellows $125,000 for the year, purposely pegging the pay packages to the standard starting associate salary to take the pressure off the fellow and to make hiring fellows a risk-free initiative.
Stacy says some firms’ clients have even requested that the firm assign fellows to their matters.
The fellows are attractive to them because they have low rates, she said, but she suspects the clients are also interested in the OnRamp program and how hiring career-returners could work for their company. Once employers start to see that they can benefit by helping qualified, highly educated women return to work, there won’t be a need for programs like OnRamp, she said.
The panelists also gave advice to women who are returning to the workforce and employers interested in launching their own initiatives aimed at career re-entry. Two women spoke of the challenges of returning to the office, especially the technology learning curve they confronted.
Carol Fishman Cohen, founder of iRelaunch, related learning to do a spreadsheet analysis in Excel after her return to Bain Capital from an 11-year hiatus from the business world — she had learned on Lotus Notes.
“Every lawyer didn’t have a computer 20 years ago,” said Pamela Zdunek, an OnRamp fellow at Sidley who just returned to full-time legal work after a 21-year hiatus to raise children. “The administrative assistants still used typewriters.”
Zdunek spoke of the way the Internet age has changed the course of doing business, such as the relatively recent ability for people to work from home and the way client relationships have changed. During her fellowship, she’s had many opportunities for client interaction, but face-to-face contact is rarer now.
Fishman Cohen recommended that women returning to the workplace set up a LinkedIn profile. Absence from social media can be a red flag to potential employers, she said.
At one point Zdunek was asked about taking direction from associates younger than her, and she said it wasn’t a problem. “My kids are always telling me me what to do,” she said to laughter .
The panel was sponsored by the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law in partnership with Locke Lord, the National Association of Women’s Lawyers and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois.
--Editing by Brian Baresch.
Full Story: http://www.law360.com/ip/articles/616905?nl_pk=ee0180b3-3a82-4cd3-a212-2ef3ca6ab810&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ip