Vol. 80, No. 9, September 2007
With strong ties to family in El Paso, Texas, Barbara Olivas hadn't entertained thoughts of living far away from Texas. But after earning her law degree at U.W. Law School in 2005, she chose to stay in Madison to practice law, largely, she says, because of her experiences with the Minority Clerkship Program, an initiative of the State Bar's Diversity Outreach Committee.
Olivas clerked during the summer after her first year in law school in the legal department at American Family Insurance Co., Madison. There she not only witnessed the "real practice of law," she says, "versus just going to lectures," but also got a sense of what it was like to work and live in Madison.
"You can't assess what Madison is like until you stay here the whole year," she says. "I went to Concerts on the Square, the Farmers Market, and other things I enjoyed. I socialized with the attorneys at American Family. I got to meet different people with different perspectives - people who weren't just nervous about law school but were already practicing law and could tell you, `Don't worry; you'll survive.'" Olivas now practices in the Madison office of the Milwaukee firm of Otjen, Van Ert & Weir S.C.
Unlike Olivas, Athenee Lucas already knew what it was like to live and work in Wisconsin - specifically in Milwaukee, where she's lived all her life. Law is her second career. When she entered Marquette University Law School, she was married and had worked for years as a human resources manager. She had no plans to move.
Lucas knew Milwaukee, but she didn't know much about the legal community. Participation in the Minority Clerkship Program gave her "connecting points," she says. "It was a way to gain exposure to the legal profession and to figure out what type of law I wanted to practice." Her clerkship was at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C., where she's practiced since 2005. Lucas became the new chair of the State Bar's Diversity Outreach Committee on July 1, 2007.
Opportunities such as those Olivas and Lucas experienced are precisely the point, says Roger Flores, chair of the Minority Clerkship Program and an attorney at American Family Insurance.
"One of the great things about the program," Flores says, "is that you become enmeshed in the legal community in Wisconsin. You start to make friends and connections." For those coming in from outside the state, he adds, "the next thing you know you're watching a Packer game at Lambeau Field and living here."
Tony Beasley isn't sure yet what he'll end up doing after law school. A second-year U.W. law student originally from Michigan, he did a clerkship last summer at American Family Insurance. He got to know attorneys not only there but also at other insurance companies and law firms.
"The clerkship program gave me a good insight into what it would be like to practice litigation in Wisconsin," he says. "I would definitely entertain the thought of staying here - more so than I had before."
For more information about the State Bar Minority Clerkship Program: Contact Patricia Morgan, project coordinator, State Bar of Wisconsin, (800) 444-9404 ext. 6107, firstname.lastname@example.org. Access the Minority Clerkship Program brochure "Your Passport to Real World Experience" (pdf) at www.wisbar.org/MinorityClerkship/Passport.
For more information about the State Bar Diversity Outreach Committee: Contact Athenee P. Lucas, Diversity Outreach Committee chair, (414) 298-8738, com alucas reinhartlaw reinhartlaw alucas com; or Cara Mavis, staff liaison, State Bar of Wisconsin, (800) 444-9494 ext. 6133, org cmavis wisbar wisbar cmavis org.