Firms Hiring Women Returning to Practice: Business of Law

Caren Ulrich Stacy worked in recruiting, professional development and “everything relating to the life cycle of an attorney” as she describes her decades-long career in law firms that included Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Arnold & Porter LLP.

Last year, while working for a consulting firm that researched law firm metrics, she saw a gap. Law firms, after years of retrenchment, needed to hire, and some women, after years of staying home, wanted a way to return to work.

She came up with the idea for the OnRamp Fellowship.

“The first thing I did was to call every consultant I thought was good and asked if they would help these women if I could find firms to hire them.” she said. “They all said yes, and agreed to donate their time.”

She then asked four firms -- Baker Botts LLP, Cooley LLP, Hogan Lovells LLP and Sidley Austin LLP -- to take part in the experiment and they all agreed.

The program, launched in January, has so far placed nine women returning to practice in one-year fellowships. One hadn’t practiced law for 21 years.

This week, 11 additional firms joined the program. Those firms -- Akerman LLP, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC; Blank Rome LLP; Crowell & Moring LLP; Fenwick & West LLP; Fish & Richardson PC; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Jenner & Block LLP; K&L Gates LLP; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; and White & Case LLP -- along with the original four -- are now posting more than 75 jobs on the program’s website, Stacy said in a telephone interview.

Securing a job is rigorous. Applicants must go through a three-hour screening, which includes a personality and skills assessment, writing test, culture questionnaire and behavioral interview.

Law firms also are vetted, in a sense. Firms “must agree to do a cultural analysis so we can make sure the candidate will be a good fit. And, we do a ‘bright spot’ analysis as well where we interview the firm’s best lawyers to understand what they do to make them successful,” Stacy said.

The women are interviewed by lawyers at the firm and those who are selected as fellows are provided with a partner who acts as an adviser, an external career counselor, unlimited online continuing legal education through the Practicing Law Institute, and a variety of training from experts in areas like negotiations and technology, she said.

The firms and the lawyers have been flexible in figuring out their roles and their salaries. While they might be considered mid-level associates, Stacy explained, “the pay is less because the billable-hour requirement is less, as is the billable rate.”

Two law schools have programs for lawyers with gaps who want to return to practice. Pace School of Law in New York runs “New Directions for Attorneys,” a part-time, five-month program that combines classes with internships. Washington College of Law of American University has a “lawyer re-entry program” as well.

The nine original OnRamp fellows are all working full time. Stacy says she’s pleased with the program, while acknowledging the hiccups along the way. Technology is often the biggest hurdle, she said, but because the women are smart, they have adapted.

One of the women, in her first week at work, was stymied when a partner asked to “PDF something.” The woman, she said, “didn’t know if PDF was a noun or a verb. Fortunately she Googled it and figured it out pretty quickly.”

Lateral Moves

Cooley Adds Bay Area Corporate and Capital-Markets Partner

Robert Phillips has joined Cooley LLP as a partner in its business department based in San Francisco. His practice focuses on the representation of technology and other companies in capital-markets offerings, including public offerings and convertible debt and high yield debt offerings. Phillips, previously a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, also advises clients on general corporate issues including securities laws compliance and corporate governance and in handling mergers and acquisitions and private financings.

Mayer Brown Adds Arbitration Partner Ortiz to Its Ranks in Paris

Alejandro López Ortiz has joined Mayer Brown LLP as a partner in the international arbitration group based in Paris. Previously, he was a counsel with Hogan Lovells LLP in Madrid.

López Ortiz has extensive experience in commercial and investment arbitration. His practice covers several sectors, including engineering and construction, energy and financial and corporate matters, the firm said in a statement.

Nelson Mullins Adds Two Financial Institution Partners

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP has expanded its financial institutions practice in North Carolina with the hiring of partners B.T. Atkinson and Scott Tobin. In addition, partners Wells Hall, Allie Nagy and Raymond Pierce, already with the firm, will join the team after approval of their North Carolina licenses.

“We are excited about our growing practice in North Carolina,” Neil Grayson, the partner who heads the firm’s financial institutions group, said in a statement.

Atkinson, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, was previously a partner at Bryan Cave LLP and focuses on corporate, securities and regulatory matters for financial institutions, and serves as the head of the North Carolina community bank practice. Hall, also based in Charlotte, advises clients on the federal, state and multistate tax aspects of acquisitions, reorganizations, restructuring of business entities, private-equity transactions and estate and gift-tax planning in connection with such transactions.

Nagy, Pierce and Tobin will be based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Nagy, who has been with the firm since 2007 and is relocating from Atlanta, focuses on regulatory, M&A and securities law matters for financial institutions, investment banks and private-equity investors in banks.

Pierce concentrates on business strategy, acquisitions, commercial transactions and corporate governance.

Tobin, who previously had his own firm, has had experience as a lawyer, senior executive, entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He focuses on mergers and acquisitions, technology finance, corporate governance and business strategy.

In the News

NFL Union Brings in Former Prosecutor to Lead Rice Investigation

The National Football League Players Association’s investigation into actions by the NFL and Baltimore Ravens that led to Ray Rice’s indefinite ban will be headed by former federal prosecutor Richard Craig Smith.

The players union said yesterday in an e-mailed statement that it has retained Smith, head of regulatory and governmental investigation in the U.S. at Norton Rose Fulbright.

Smith will conduct the union’s probe into the due process, discipline, facts and conduct of the NFL office and Ravens that led to Rice’s suspension.

Rice was initially suspended two games by the NFL in July for knocking his fiancee unconscious in the elevator of a New Jersey casino five months earlier. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell banned Rice from the league indefinitely this month when the website TMZ released a security video that showed Rice punching Janay Palmer, who is now his wife.

Rice has appealed that discipline through the NFLPA, which has alleged the lack of a fair and impartial process, including the role of the commissioner.

The union said its investigation will “run parallel” to Rice’s appeal and that it will request that the NFL and the Ravens cooperate in the interest of transparency.

The NFL on Sept. 10 brought in former FBI Director Robert Mueller to conduct an independent internal investigation.

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