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.”
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.
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.
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 org bpark wisbar wisbar bpark org.
More about the Diversity Clerkship Program
1 Diversity and Inclusion: A Toolkit for Sections, State Bar of Wisconsin.