Last summer, at a roundtable review with Bristol-Myers Squibb summer interns, Linda Willet heard some comments that corroborated her feeling that the program had promoted inclusivity. "The law school students used terms like 'we,' 'my,' and 'our,'" says Willett, the Bristol-Myers vice president and deputy general counsel who directs their internship program. "That's when I knew that they felt part of the team," she says.
Indeed, a major goal of corporate legal departments that provide summer internships for minority law students is to make them feel wanted. But designing a successful program that meets those and other objectives requires certain critical elements. Looking at three successful programs—at Bristol-Myers, Lucent Technologies, and Shell Oil—can point you to some trusted guidelines for setting up your own summer effort.
Here are eight steps to consider that will help make your summer internship stumble-free:
1. Pinpoint Your Objectives
"We wanted to enhance the diversity of our legal team," says Randy Hjeldt, senior litigation counsel for Houston, TX-based Shell Oil. "In 1995, after redoubling our efforts, we looked for more opportunities to identify minority candidates. So our central mission is to recruit summer clerks who will become permanent employees." Hjeldt's position is that lateral hiring is based on limited information like interviews and writing samples as well as a great deal of expensive wining and dining. By contrast, he believes, during a six-week summer clerkship, both Shell and the student get to know each other.
At Lucent Technologies in Murray Hill, NJ, the plan is to focus on two nearby feeder schools, explains Gloria Howard, manager of their summer program and executive assistant to Richard J. Rawson, executive vice president and general counsel. "We wanted to reach out to minority students at Rutgers and Seton Hall law schools," explains Howard, "because at least 50 of our legal staff of 150 have graduated from these institutions." Their program is designed to offer valuable legal training and exposure to students who have completed the first year at either Rutgers University School of Law—Newark, or Seton Hall University School of Law.
In mid-town New York City, Willett says that the Bristol-Myers driving philosophy is to foster diversity in the legal division. "A principal feature of our summer program is that the 105 attorneys in our legal division are surrounded by people who are different from us," she explains. "How can we place people of color in the division so that there is a decent comfort level among students and attorneys was a question we decided to deal with," she declares. "With no understanding of how a minority feels in a white setting, it was difficult for me to imagine. After all," she adds, "that is the real key to global competition—understanding different cultures."
2. Assign a High-Level Coordinator
Who is associated with the program sends a message to both the legal division and your summer students. Although Hjeldt does not have day-to-day involvement, he is in constant touch with his coordinator, Richard Bohan, a senior counsel and 10-year veteran in the corporate legal department at Shell Oil. At Lucent Technologies, executive assistant Gloria Howard is just a few feet away from the general counsel. And Willett, at Bristol-Myers, directs the work of an entire legal division numbering more than 100 attorneys.
3. Set Up Recruitment Channels
You can recruit more effectively and get valuable assistance too by zeroing in on a target audience, say these experts. Rawson jump-started the Lucent Technologies effort after meeting with law school deans at Seton Hall and Rutgers in 1996. Last summer 35 Seton Hall students sent resumes, and Lucent hired four. Rutger's deans did their own screening for Lucent, who hired three from the New Brunswick campus.
When the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund met with Bristol-Myers in 1995, they agreed to supply resumes of top-flight candidates. Last year, Bristol-Myers reviewed more than 30 resumes, interviewed 10, made offers to six, and hired four. At Shell Oil, Richard Bohan, a Shell senior counsel who coordinates the four-student summer clerkship initiative, recruits first-year and second-year students at a core group of Southern law schools like the University of Texas School of Law, South Texas School of Law affiliated with Texas A&M University, and the University of Houston Law Center.
* Where to recruit? Here are the law schools with minority enrollment percentages of greater than 30% (source: Law School Admission Council, The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools, Random House, 1999)
(Alphabetized by school; min. enrollment/percentage)
|University of California—Hastings College of the Law
|University of California at Los Angeles School of Law
|City University of New York School of Law at Queens College
|University of Colorado School of Law
|Columbia University School of Law
|University of Hawaii at Manoa—William S. Richardson School of Law
|Howard University School of Law
|Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University
|University of Miami School of Law
|University of New Mexico School of Law
|North Carolina Central University School of Law
|Rutgers University School of Law—Newark
|St. Mary's University School of Law
|St. Thomas University School of Law
|Santa Clara University School of Law
|University of Southern California Law School
|Southern University Law Center
|Southwestern University School of Law
|Stanford University Law School
|Western State University College of Law
|Whittier Law School
|Yale Law School
4. Design an Attractive Compensation Package
At Shell, six-week summer clerks receive a salary equivalent to that of a first-year attorney.
Interns at Lucent Technologies are considered employees for 10 to 12 weeks, and receive $700 weekly. They are entitled to two vacation days, have their own telephone number, and receive secretarial assistance and passwords to Lexis-Nexis and WestLaw online services. Further, In 1997 Lucent established a $25,000 annual scholarship fund supporting second and third year students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Bristol-Myers pays its interns $8,000 for their 10-week stints. In addition, Bristol-Myers reimburses them for commuting and temporary residency expenses, and awards scholarship assistance until they graduate from law school.
5. Assign Mentors or Coaches
All the program directors agree on the importance of one-on-one interaction between the intern and a legal staff member. Shell pairs its clerks with a section mentor directly responsible for evaluating the student's work. In addition, each clerk has a buddy mentor—an attorney outside of the department—to provide informal, friendly insight. Randy Heldjt buddy-lunches with a clerk on a weekly basis. "I'm more of a friend than an evaluator," explains Hjeldt. "And you must admit," he adds, "that a senior white male attorney meeting with a young black male law student is not an ordinary situation. We both learn a lot, so we both win."
"One reason our program is so small, is that we want to give our attorneys the opportunity for coaching and mentoring," says Gloria Howard about the Lucent initiative. "We have emphasized to our attorneys that it is not an assignment so much as a people-to-people project." A lead corporate attorney assigns projects and evaluates intern performance. In addition, "Coaches are there all the way to support the students," she declares.
At Bristol-Myers, coaches not only offer daily feedback to students, but they are also expected to fill a certain profile themselves. Linda Willett insists on inviting only fast track Bristol-Myers senior counsel with high potential. "Our coaches are always attorneys whom we expect to rise within the firm," she explains, adding, "we really focus on the quality of both the students and the attorneys."
6. Foster Communication and Interaction
Planning activities that bring the corporate attorneys and the students face-to-face in non-mentoring situations is a necessary ingredient that can yield huge dividends. At Shell department luncheons, clerks attend attorney presentations in the conference room. "One attorney described how he argued a case before the Supreme Court," recalls Richard Bohan. Away from the Shell office, attorneys and clerks connect at social functions like pool parties, dinner parties, and trips to museums and theaters. Randy Hjeldt's assessment: "We have time to know each other and get an excellent idea of what is possible later."
Interns and attorneys at Bristol-Myers begin their introductory session anchored by two concerns: what do the interns expect from Bristol-Myers, and what does Bristol-Myers expect from them. A similar session is held at the end of the program where the parties then evaluate each other and discuss ways to improve the program. "We want to increase the opportunities for our attorneys and the interns to spend time together," Linda Willet says.
During the first week at Lucent, interns attend an informal two-hour luncheon where Richard Lawson and Lucent lead counsel give an overview of the program and describe the practice groups. But it's not a one-way show. Interns are encouraged to describe their expectations and concerns also. In fact, student feedback is motivated to the point that one Lucent intern, declaring that she needed more challenge, was transferred to another department. That meeting is a prelude to Lucent's centerpiece Lunch and Learn series. Every Tuesday at noon, interns feast on professional insights served by Lucent attorneys.
Another slant is offered when Lucent minority counsel talk informally about issues of special concern to minority professionals.
Howard contends that the interaction at Lucent encourages a high level of enthusiasm. To illustrate, she describes how one intern complained that for the first time she hated Saturdays and Sundays.
"Why is that?" asked Howard.
"Because I can't come to work," explained the intern.
7. Give Interns Meaningful Assignments
Bristol-Myers interns are assigned to a practice division like labor, litigation, or patent, and have the option of transferring. "They really contribute to our division," maintains Willett, describing how one intern went to municipal court for a hearing during her first week. "She had to explain to the court why it was prudent to grant Bristol-Myers a permit." In another instance,
An intern helped negotiate a pre-litigation claim. "A law suit was avoided," insists Willett. "The intern talked with the staffer, collected facts, and then recommended counseling for the manager."
During their six weeks at Shell, clerks spend three weeks in each of two departments—intellectual property or chemical. "We try to make certain that the attorneys use them." Explains Richard Bohan, So our clerks are involved in research, attend client meetings, or even appear for a court hearing. According to Bohan, clerks are right in the mix of things since all the attorney's offices are on the same floor.
Lucent's interns are assigned to practice areas like intellectual property, patent creation, or labor and employment. Since Lucent's intellectual property division is so large, interns will typically spend at least half of their summer in that area. "We want to give them exposure and experience," says Gloria Howard, describing Lucent's heavy emphasis on giving their interns training within a real work environment.
8. Track Post-Summer Performance
Stay in touch, and don't let your interns fall off the radar screen after the summer ends, warn these program directors. Shell in particular has reaped enormous benefits because it plans to hire its interns directly. From their perspective, their approach has worked out perfectly: three of their recently hired employees are former clerks. Former clerks hold positions not only in The Hague working with Shell's international division, but also as general counsel for Shell Japan.
"We have time to know each other and get an excellent idea of what is possible later," enthuses Randy Hjeldt. In his view, by identifying potential employees as early as their first year, Shell shows that it can be a loyal partner, and the clerks too have the opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty. "You have to invest time to really get the best out of diversity," declares Heldjt. Further, since Shell hires both first and second-year students, it's possible that a student could be invited back for another summer, giving both parties a second look. And, former clerks who are now Shell attorneys can be used as resources to help ease the transition from student to employee.
Lucent makes it clear to their seven students that the internship is not a step toward employment. Having no associate program, they hire attorneys who have three to four years experience with other firms. Still, Gloria Howard says that Lucent intends to hire one of their interns who meets that criterion. And one of the two African-American attorneys now at Lucent is a former summer intern.
Meanwhile, with the assistance of law school deans at Seton Hall and Rutgers, as well as by connecting with alumni groups, Lucent keeps informal tabs on the post-program progress of their interns. Sometimes the contact is quite unexpected, as in Howard's meeting a former intern in a grocery store one morning. She discovered that he was employed as an intellectual property attorney with a New York City legal firm. "He told me that the exposure he got as a summer intern was really important," she chuckles.
Bristol-Myers does not hire directly from law school either, but Linda Willet knows that continued contact is important. "We have a mailing list to help us stay in touch with them as they advance their careers," she explains. "Sometimes we can make a call or write a letter to help them get jobs or grease the skids," she adds.
The bottom line: plan your work and work your plan. At the same time, suggest these diversity advocates, be flexible enough to modify. When asked what changes he might make in the Shell program, Randy Hjeldt may have summed it up for all three when he answered," We're still tinkering, expanding, and fixing."
From the March 2001 issue of Diversity & The Bar®