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  • January 30, 2019

    Pursue a Diverse Workforce: State Bar’s Diversity Clerkship Program Needs Employers

    The State Bar’s Diversity Clerkship Program offers a unique opportunity for legal employers to pursue a more diverse workforce while also providing first year law students with valuable career experience. Lara Czajkowski Higgins talks about the program and encourages employers to sign up – the deadline is Feb. 18, 2019.

    Lara Czajkowski Higgins

    The legal profession, like many others, is being encouraged to consider diversity in its hiring practices.

    The State Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee has identified various reasons why a diverse and inclusive bar is necessary, including1:

    • attracting and engaging talented volunteers and leaders;

    • effectively serving diverse clients with diverse needs;

    • understanding and adapting to increasingly diverse local and global markets;

    • devising creative solutions to complex problems;

    • improving access to justice; and

    • upholding respect for the rule of law and the credibility of the legal profession.

    According to State Bar Program Coordinator Bryant Park, “addressing diversity and inclusion can often be daunting, and determining a starting point can be a struggle.”

    Lara Czajkowski Higgins Lara Czajkowski Higgins, Villanova 2001, is a partner at Czajkowski Higgins & Tisdale S.C., Prairie du Chien, where she conducts a general practice focusing on insurance defense, municipal law, business and corporate matters, and real estate.

    Park suggests that “it is important to maintain the mindset that diversity is a journey and not a destination.” When making the journey, Park recommends that legal employers “assess where they are, celebrate their successes, identify weaknesses and gaps, and discuss where the employer would like to be.”

    One opportunity to enhance that journey is the State Bar’s Diversity Clerkship Program.

    Participating in the State Bar’s Diversity Clerkship Program

    In its 26th year, the Diversity Clerkship Program is a limited-term (10-week) summer employment program during which first-year U.W. and Marquette University law school students from diverse backgrounds are provided full-time employment by participating employers.

    Participating employers get the opportunity to recruit a more diverse workforce and gain access to talented law students. Law students benefit by being provided the opportunity to build their legal practice skills and by gaining exposure to varying areas of law and practice.

    Interested law students apply to participate in the program and are put through a rigorous selection process to ensure they are proper candidates for the clerkship program. Candidates submit a written application, resume, legal writing sample, and personal statement demonstrating their commitment to diversity. A selection committee of practicing attorneys review the application materials and conduct candidate interviews.

    Clerk and Employer – Boardman and Clark, 2017

    In 2017, Boardman & Clark, LLP, was recognized for 25 years’ participation in the Diversity Clerkship Program. Pictured here in July 2017 are law clerk Victoria Crosby, left, and Boardman attorney Anita Gallucci.

    Once selected for the program, the candidates are interviewed by participating employers. Following those interviews, the candidates and employers rank their job/employee preferences based on the interviews. The selection committee reviews those preferences and ultimately makes the student-employer assignments.

    Employers who participate in the program are required to provide the student employee with the same salary, work experience, and social opportunities as the employer provides to other summer associates. Employers are also encouraged to provide a mentor for the student clerk. Throughout the summer employment, the employer conducts periodic evaluations of the student. At the end of the clerkship, they conduct an exit interview. After completion of the clerkship program, the employer and student clerk are free to negotiate continued employment as they see fit.

    Clerk and Employer - Madison City Attorney's Office

    In this photo from July 2016, Madison City Attorney Michael May poses with law clerk Sheila Thobani.

    Building Awareness, Forging Connections

    Boardman & Clark, LLP, has participated in the Diversity Clerkship Program since its inception 26 years ago. “The program itself adds to the cultural diversity of the firm and increased our awareness of diversity issues,” says Boardman attorney Anita Gallucci. “It also helps to get [the firm’s] name ‘out there’ among law students of color, and helps spread the word among that diverse law school community that Boardman is a good place to work.”

    The Madison City Attorney’s Office has nearly 15 years’ participation in the program. Madison City Attorney Michael May reports that he has been very satisfied with the program. “The clerks have all been quality students and have helped [the City] add to its diverse workforce in the summer,” he said. May wishes that more firms and government agencies participate in the program.

    Enroll by Feb. 18, 2019

    The deadline for employers to enroll in the 2019 summer Diversity Clerkship Program is Feb. 18, 2019. For more information, contact Bryant Park, State Bar of Wisconsin, (608) 250-6083 or


    1 Diversity and Inclusion: A Toolkit for Sections, State Bar of Wisconsin.

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    Litigation Section Blog is published by the State Bar of Wisconsin; blog posts are written by section members. To contribute to this blog, contact Matthew Lein and Heather L. Nelson and review Author Submission Guidelines. Learn more about the Litigation Section or become a member.

    Disclaimer: Views presented in blog posts are those of the blog post authors, not necessarily those of the Section or the State Bar of Wisconsin. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the State Bar of Wisconsin makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content.

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