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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.

Contact the reporter at

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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.

All Content © 2003-2014, Portfolio Media, Inc.


Texas LawBook, “Baker Botts and Sidley Lead Texas Effort in New Women’s Fellowship Program”

Baker Botts and Sidley Lead Texas Effort in New Women’s Fellowship Program

© 2014 The Texas Lawbook.

By Natalie Posgate
Staff Writer for The Texas Lawbook

(January 13) – For nearly two decades, law firms across Texas have struggled to improve the number of experienced women lawyers among their ranks. They increased their recruiting efforts at law schools, which led to significant jumps in the number of women in associate ranks.

But somewhere in between the third and eighth year of employment, many women associates left the firms never to return.

Now there’s a new, innovative effort underway to turn that around.

Baker Botts and Sidley Austin are two of the four law firms sponsoring the OnRamp Fellowship program, a new initiative created to help women re-enter their career tracks in the practice of law.

OnRamp will match experienced women lawyers returning to the profession with law firms for a one-year training contract that includes a $125,000 salary. The hope is that after one year, the fellows will either start full-time at the participating firms or have the training and contacts needed to land their next job. The women targeted for the fellowship have often left the field to raise a family.

Along with Baker Botts and Sidley, two other sponsor firms – Washington, D.C.-based Hogan Lovells and Palo Alto-based Cooley – are piloting the OnRamp Fellowship in 2014.

The new fellowship comes at a time when the pipeline remains leaky at law firms. Recent NALP statistics show the number of midlevel and senior female associates has dropped for four straight years. Though the breakdown of entry level associates is generally even between men and women at most AmLaw 200 firms, women only represent 16 percent of partners.

“The first goal is to bring more women lawyers back into the fold,” said OnRamp founder Caren Ulrich Stacy. “To achieve our second goal – advancing more women lawyers into leadership roles – we will rigorously screen applicants to find high-performing women lawyers who will have the skills and the desire to advance as well as provide intensive leadership training, career counseling, and CLE opportunities to further boost their success.”

The pilot firms are considering applicants in 15 major U.S. cities, and the number of fellows selected by the firms will vary from one to five. Baker Botts has six participating offices this year, including Austin, Dallas and Houston. Chicago-based Sidley, which named its first woman partner in 1956, has four offices considering fellow applications, including Dallas.

In Dallas, Sidley’s global finance practice group is considering fellowship applications.

Baker Botts’ Texas offices will consider fellows in the corporate, intellectual property, tax, finance and energy transactions practice areas.

Dallas-based antitrust partner Van Beckwith and corporate partner Samantha Hale Crispin are leading the fellowship program for Baker Botts. Beckwith is the firm’s partner in charge of recruiting. Crispin is the firmwide chair for the Global Women’s Forum, an initiative to foster networking, mentoring and professional development among women at the firm.

Through his national networking duties as partner in charge of recruiting, Beckwith met Ulrich Stacy, who is a legal consultant in Colorado who has worked with major law firms on lawyer recruitment, development and diversity.

So when Ulrich Stacy contacted Beckwith a few months ago about OnRamp, it was a no-brainer for both sides.

“Texas is home to some of the best legal talent and law firms in the U.S.,” Ulrich Stacy said. “Baker Botts has proven itself to be an innovative firm that places a high priority on finding and developing the best talent. And, they care deeply about diversity. It was the first firm I approached and they accepted without hesitation.”

Crispin said joining the effort was easy because OnRamp fits nicely with Baker Botts’ own women’s initiatives.

“We’re really excited about this,” Crispin said. “There aren’t many avenues for [women] to get back into the practice of law and practice at a high level at a big firm, picking back up where they left off.”

After getting on board, Beckwith said the firm immediately went to work with Ulrich Stacy to develop a strong structure for the fellowship program.

“This is good for Baker Botts, good for returning career track women and good for the profession,” Beckwith said.

Applicants must have at least three years of experience in the law and be at least two years removed from their practice. Applications open Monday, and Ulrich Stacy will work over the next month to seek candidates and make recommendations to the firms.

Selected fellows will begin working at their pilot firms between late April and early May.

Fellows will work as if they were associates at the firms. In addition, the fellowship provides the women with career-development support through unlimited access to online CLE programs; training by specialists in negotiations, business development and leadership; and one-on-one coaching by legal experts in the profession.

The training programs will help the fellows get up-to-date with their skills and the current trends in their practice areas – something that often serves as an obstacle for women trying to return to the legal profession.

“Employers are going to want to understand how current you are on your skills,” Crispin said. “Can you come in and hit the ground running, and be at the level you want to be at and we want you to be at?”

© 2014 The Texas Lawbook.

Am Law Daily, “New Fellowship Aims to Restart Dormant Legal Careers”

Finding a job as a lateral associate in The Am Law 100 can be a difficult task no matter the circumstances. For female attorneys who have left the practice of law for several years, the challenge of landing a new job can be especially hard.

With that in mind, Colorado-based legal consultant Caren Ulrich Stacy is launching a fellowship program that will put women lawyers who have taken a break from the profession for one reason or another in year-long jobs at Am Law firms. So far, Baker Botts, Cooley, Hogan Lovells, and Sidley Austin have agreed to participate in the program, and Ulrich Stacy says she hopes to expand the effort if the first year goes well.

Ulrich Stacy would like to see the participating firms give their respective fellows full-time positions when the 12-month program—which comes with a $125,000 salary—ends. Alternatively, she hopes the experience gives the lawyers who take part enough of a resume boost to land their next job.

“These women were highly sought after when they graduated from law school and they should be again,” she says.

Ulrich Stacy has spent her career working in law school career services, at firms such as Arnold & Porter; Cooley; McGuireWoods; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and as an outside consultant to firms and legal departments. The idea for the new program, which she has given the name OnRamp Fellowship, came to her four months ago while she was working with two Colorado law schools that were placing recent graduates in short-term jobs.

Representatives of the law firms that have signed on to the fellowship program believe it could have real value in increasing the legal industry’s gender diversity.

Cooley CEO Joe Conroy, for instance, says he was immediately excited about the idea when Ulrich Stacy approached him a few months ago. Conroy says he sees what she is trying to do adding to a critically important conversation: “Young women lawyers, you can tell them as much as you’d like that there’s a path for them, but you have to show them role models or they’re not going to believe it.”

At Baker Botts, Van Beckwith, the firm’s partner in charge of recruiting, says it was an “easy decision” to get involved. Samantha Crispin, a Baker Botts partner who chairs the firm’s global women’s forum, echoes that sentiment. “It hits squarely within the goals of our women’s initiative—recruiting, retention, development and promotion of women lawyers,” Crispin says.

The application process for prospective fellows officially kicks off Monday. Ulrich Stacy says she plans to rigorously vet all of the candidates herself and make recommendations to the firms by the end of February. The up to 20 fellows she expects to join the program this year will start working with their new employers in late April or early May.

All told, the four firms involved have told Ulrich Stacy that as of now they expect to have openings in at least 15 U.S. markets, including Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Though applicants must have at least three years of legal industry experience to be considered, Ulrich Stacy says she deliberately set the salary lower than the $160,00 that a typical first-year receives. She did so, she says, to give firms the flexibility to build in training and integration time and adjust billing rates.

“One thing that’s interesting is that other corporations have been doing this for awhile, they get it,” says Jennifer Hagle, a cochair of the national recruiting committee at Sidley. “We really see this as a win-win venture with very little downside.”

The participating firms will pay Ulrich Stacy for screening and recommending applicants via a process that she says will involve skills tests, a written assessment, and behavioral interviews. Once selected, fellows will also have access to trainers and counselors whom Ulrich Stacy has recruited, as well as to free continuing legal education courses.

Conroy expects the cost of the program to pay off quickly for Cooley. “If you get one success, the costs are nominal,” he says. “If you broaden the conversation within the firm and awareness by 35 percent, the costs are nominal.”

Ulrich Stacy’s program is not the first initiative aimed at helping women reenter the legal profession, though it’s format does appear to be unique. Some firms use alumni networks, maintained either formally or informally, to extend job offers to associates who have taken time off. Cravath, Swaine & Moore, for instance, has a formalized associate re-entry program that allows former associates to keep in contact with—and their bar association dues paid by—the firm, while also providing them with access to CLE programs. Those who take part in the program have the option of returning to Cravath if they choose to practice law again.

A few other broader initiatives have started over the years but failed to gain traction.

In 2006—before the economic downturn flooded the market with out-of-work associates—two Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partners created a program for New York–area women who had taken a break from practice but wanted to maintain their professional networks and keep current on legal trends. Sponsored by the Business Law section of the American Bar Association, the organizers held monthly lunch sessions at Am Law firms featuring leading industry figures.

Despite a burst of publicity from The New York Times and legal trade publications, the ABA shut down the program, known as Back to Business Law, after three years. Linda Hayman, one of Back to Business Law’s creators, says it succeeded as a pilot program but failed to establish itself in a permanent way.

On the West Coast, a similar California-based initiative that launched to much fanfare in 2006 petered out two years later. The program, run by UC Hastings College of the Law’s Center for WorkLife Law, ran eight-week sessions geared toward preparing women to reenter the legal market. Joan Williams, a UC Hastings professor and director of the center, says the initiative died because organizers could not find a sustainable business model.

Ulrich Stacy hopes her OnRamp Fellowship succeeds in the long term, not only as a viable business, but as a way of ensuring that women keep making gains in the legal profession (As The Am Law Daily reported Friday, women still lag far behind in the partnership ranks of Am Law 200 firms, recently exemplified by five firms that failed to promote a single woman to partner this year). She hopes the program not only helps firms increase the number of women they employ, but also increases the number of female leaders.

“The first goal is just to bring more women back into the fold,” Ulrich Stacy says. “The second goal is to find women who have the potential to advance.”

OnRamp Fellowship Press Release

OnRamp Fellowship Launch Press Release 1-13-14