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A lot of smart people in the legal profession are focusing on how to retain women in the workforce. And for good reason — the number of female lawyers in law firms is declining and there continues to be a deficit of women and diverse lawyers in the leadership ranks within law firms and legal departments. But what about the highly qualified women and other lawyers who took a hiatus from our profession and want to come back? Why are we not also focusing our attention on that untapped pool of talented professionals?
As a 30-year talent management veteran in law, I understand the challenges faced by women in these fast-paced, demanding environments. When a third-year female associate in a law firm, for example, takes a job hiatus for several years to raise children, there is invariably a question about where she will fit in the law firm’s compensation and advancement structure upon her return. Many practice group leaders have asked me that precise question when I have presented them with similar lateral candidates. The even tougher questions that typically follow include: “How can we be certain that she has the skills to step right back in? And do we know for sure that she really wants to come back?"
None of these questions can be answered easily and confidently at the outset. That is why Goldman Sachs, Sara Lee, Credit Suisse, and others have been facilitating “Returnships” (trademarked by Goldman Sachs) for years. These re-entry platforms allow the returning professionals and the organizations to engage in a "try-out" to determine fit, while also giving the professionals a chance to strengthen their skills.
With the help of more than 20 talent experts and many innovative organizations, we have built our own unique version of the "Returnship" model — with a robust selection process and a comprehensive training and coaching component — in the legal profession. The goal is to provide returning women and other lawyers with additional experience and skills while helping law firms and legal departments replenish their talent pipeline with diverse, high-performers who have a desire to return to and advance in these organizations.
More than 3 million women left the workforce in the last few years, with the pandemic exacerbating the exodus further. We want to make sure the lawyers who left have a structured path back into law.
Click on applicants or organizations to learn about the benefits, the program infrastructure, and how to apply or join the effort.
Thanks to the wonderful support of everyone involved since OnRamp's inception in 2014, including the four founding firms mentioned above, we've already matched more than 90 returning women — one-third of whom are lawyers of color — with leading law firms, legal departments, and financial services firms.