All posts tagged returnships

The Recorder, “OnRamp Program Adds More Destinations”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Above the Law, “Getting Back Into the Law”

The statistics don’t lie. There is approximately a 50/50 split between men and women who graduate from law school and obtain entry level associate positions at firms. However, many more women end up leaving after a few years and either never return to the firm environment or return to practicing law at all. We can point to a myriad of reasons, both personal to each woman and systemic of the general firm structure, but the bottom line is that women lawyers are a group that could use assistance in getting back into law.

Enter the OnRamp Fellowship. Founded by Caren Ulrich Stacey, the Fellowship is a re-entry platform that allows experienced, talented lawyers to return to the work force through a one year, paid training contract. This platform allows lawyers to renew and increase their legal skills, while getting a resume boost that will help transition them to the next position at the same or different law firm. The Fellowship also provides lawyers with the opportunity to make valuable networking contacts and obtain professional references.

In turn, law firms benefit from tapping into an overlooked pool of highly skilled and experienced lawyers who are eager to demonstrate that they still got it. Not to mention, participating law firms get to have bragging rights to encouraging diversity and doing good for women lawyers everywhere. The legal profession, as a whole, is also replenished by the infusion of “new” talent and improved gender equality among the numbers of mid-to-senior level associates.

So which law firms currently have bragging rights to participating in the 2014 pilot program? Cooley, Baker Botts, Sidley Austin, and Hogan Lovells. And who are the accomplished women lawyers chosen as the2014-15 Fellows?

• Sheila Bridges (Cooley, San Francisco)
• Dora de la Rosa (Sidley Austin, Los Angeles)
• Dana Glenn (Hogan Lovells, Washington, D.C.)
• Heather Hewitt (Baker Botts, Houston)
• Mary Klumpp (Cooley, Washington, D.C.)
• Yvette Lanneaux (Baker Botts, New York)
• Mimi Ophir (Sidley Austin, New York)
• Lori Trujillo (Sidley Austin, Los Angeles)
• Pamela Zdunek (Sidley Austin, Chicago)

Although the OnRamp Fellowship is a great solution to the re-entry challenges faced by women lawyers, the downside to the success of this platform is that it is extremely popular and thus extremely competitive. Notwithstanding the high number of applicants, OnRamp also utilizes a rigorous process for both law firms and applicants. Law firms undergo an assessment of the organizational culture. High performing women lawyers at the firm are interviewed to gather information and analyze their abilities to achieve within that particular environment. As for the applicants, they are required to complete battery of online skills, personality, and values assessments, take a writing assessment, write a personal essay, and participate in a behavioral interview. Upon completion, a “Screening Scorecard” for each applicant, containing assessments details and other application materials, are sent to the law firms who can then choose who to personally interview.

Needless to say, the OnRamp Fellowship is slated to be a coveted and prestigious achievement that will indicate to subsequent employers that the recipient is the best of the best.If you missed applying the first time around, OnRamp will be launching a second pilot program this fall due to overwhelming interest. New positions with more than 10 law firms will be posted in mid September 2014. So remember to check back for phase 2 of the OnRamp Fellowship and good luck!

Sunny Choi is the 2013 Writers in Residence Coordinator for Ms. JD. She is a former participant in the Writers in Residence program, where her monthly column Legally Thrifty focused on beginners personal finance advice for law students and professionals. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she currently practices commercial litigation and creditors’ rights while freelance writing and blogging in her spare time. She can be reached at

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

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.”