AuthorSaunders, Bria

Table of Contents INTRODUCTION 133 A. The Importance of Internships 134 I. RECRUITMENT IN LAW FIRMS 135 II. THE PROBLEM 138 A. The Legal Profession was Tailored to Exclude African 138 Americans B. On-Campus Interviews Continue the Exclusion of African 141 American Attorneys III. DIVERSITY WITHIN LAW FIRMS 143 A. How Firms Practice and Encourage Diverse Environments 143 B. Benefits of Diversity in Law Firms 147 IV. THE SOLUTION 149 A. What is the Internship Initiative? 150 B. Why More Inclusive Internships will Increase Legal 153 Workplace Inclusivity C. The Internship Initiative Does Not Provide Students of Color with a Speciel Advantage to the Detriment of White Students 154 CONCLUSION 156 INTRODUCTION

"How can we hope to understand the needs and concerns of customers around the world without incorporating their views into the very fabric of our operations?" -Arnold Pinkston, General Counsel of Eli Lilly and Co. (1) Although the world is much more progressive than it once was, many law firms struggle to change a culture that historically favors white male attorneys at every level. (2) This has resulted in a huge lack of diversity in the legal profession. (3) Unfortunately, diversity diminishes even further as one moves up on the ladder of success. (4) Achieving full diversity would mean that various groups are represented in legal education and in the legal profession, according to their percentage in the general population. (5) However, this is not the case for Black (6) or African American associates. (7) According to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), "for the first time since the Great Recession the percent of Black or African-American associates in large law firms has finally 'eclipsed', the percent measured in 2009." (8)

However, the increase is minuscule. It has taken Black associates more than ten years to increase their population size by one-tenth of a percentage point. (9) The lack of Black attorneys hired by law firms is an unfortunate reality that is often overlooked. (10) The legal field cannot successfully bring progressive change in the world if it is largely made up of a homogenous, white, male majority. To bring about progressive change, the discrepancy between the white majority and the racial or ethnic minority in the legal profession must be reduced. (11) Such change can begin by providing individuals of racial and ethnic backgrounds with job opportunities. Specifically, this begins with offering law students of diverse backgrounds with internships.

  1. The Importance of Internships

    An internship is a temporary work experience offered by an organization, typically for students to gain some exposure to a specific working environment in the students' field of study. (12) "An internship provides the work experience that helps students put their education into practice, develop their leadership skills and gives students a competitive advantage as they pursue a permanent position." (13) Many believe (14) that "[t]he best real work experience you can have is in your internship." (15) Students, however, are not the only ones who benefit from internships. (16) "Internships allow employers time to assess a student for competency, drive and cultural fit." (17) Essentially, an internship is a trial and error phase for an employer because they can assess an intern's work ethic for a period of time without completely committing to full-time employment. Furthermore, employers have reported that the best, most innovative ideas come from interns (18) in part because "interns were the ones who were willing to take on the dirty work and pick up the tasks others didn't necessarily want to do, but some of the best findings came out of those projects." (19)

    Internships not only boost a resume for students approaching graduation, but also have lasting positive effects that benefit them throughout their career. (20) Jon Pryor, a higher education researcher (21), studied the relationship between the college experience and the professional outcomes in the lives of graduates. (22) He found that "college graduates who had internships in college... were twice as likely than those who did not have internships to be engaged in their work and 1.5 times more likely to report high levels of wellbeing." (23) The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that "students who graduate with internship experiences are generally more likely than students without those experiences to find employment after graduation." (24)

    This comment argues that intentional internship opportunities (25) for people of color is one solution to the multifaceted systematic deficiency that the legal profession faces with the lack of Black or African American representation. Section II of this comment explores the types of recruitment strategies that law firms employ. Next, Section III focuses on where the lack of people of color in firms stems. This comment then discusses practices that firms have used to become more inclusive. Finally, Section V concludes that providing internship opportunities for aspiring Black or African American attorneys is a viable method to combat the racial injustice that people of color face within the legal profession.


      Recruitment is "the process of finding and hiring the best-qualified candidate, from within or outside of an organization, for a job opening, in a timely and cost effective manner." (26) Generally, law firms or recruitment companies hire legal recruiting coordinators to visit law schools, hold regional job fairs, and/or conduct on-campus interviews. (27) In 2019, NALP surveyed a total of 393 employers, mostly law firms, on their existing recruitment practices. (28) "Nearly 83% percent of responses were from firms of more than 250 lawyers." (29) According to the nationwide survey, "the median number of schools at which employers recruited was six." (30)

      One particular style of recruitment includes summer programs. Students may obtain summer programs through the On-Campus Interview (OCI) process. (31) Summer programs typically last about eight to ten weeks, however, some programs can range from four to thirteen weeks. (32) In 2019, 98% of students who were offered a full-time associate position completed a summer program. (33) Furthermore, NALP found that the acceptance rate for job offers was an historic 88% and "significantly higher than the pre-recession rates of about 73% to 77%." (34) Large and mid-size law firms tend to fill most of their first-year associate needs from their previous year's summer associate class. (35) Law firms traditionally hire law school graduates who worked as summer interns; as such summer associate positions are important for students who want to work for the same firm that they clerked for post-graduation. (36) Thus, firms focus on hiring second year students to fill future hiring needs. (37)

      Furthermore, law schools court employers to participate in job fairs (38) throughout the year. These fairs may be put on with the school career services or with a partner organization in the community. (39) Invitations to such job fairs can be extended to the entire school. (40) In some circumstances, local employers (41) will organize job fairs that are geared for diverse and minority students. (42) If a prospective employer is not local, some schools provide funding for travel. (43) At these job fairs, students meet prospective employers and attend educational seminars. (44) Job fairs also offer students increased access to a broad range of employers. (45) However, some fairs have barriers of entry, such as an entry fee (46) or limiting the event to only second and third-year law students. (47)

      Law firms also utilize job websites and post job listings online for vacant associate positions. (48) Interested attorneys can then search and apply to the positions in which they are interested. (49) If an employer is interested, the employer can contact the applicant. Additionally, many associations have a career section on their website where potential candidates can find job openings. (50)

      Of course, firm recruiters have the power to recruit someone they already know. Using this method, recruiters can hire somebody whom they trust or believe would be a good fit for the position. (51) Before the need arises to hire an associate, a recruiter must go through the laborious process of collecting and identifying "qualified" candidates. (52) If recruiters fail to hire someone that they know, they can hire someone that is connected with a person that they know. (53) As such, rather than going on a "fishing expedition," recruiters can instead rely on a colleague's professional network to fill the position. (54)


      This portion of the comment discusses the systematic oppression that led to the lack of African Americans in the legal profession and how this oppression perpetuates today. Part A elaborates on how the legal profession was tailored to exclude African Americans and Part B discusses the OCI process and how it continues to exclude African American attorneys.

  2. The Legal Profession was Tailored to Exclude African Americans

    In 2019, the American Bar Association (ABA) reported that Black or African American individuals are underrepresented in the legal profession compared to their proportional makeup within the U.S. general population. (55) African Americans make up 13.4% of the U.S. population; however, they make up only 5% of all lawyers. (56) This percentage has remained unchanged in the last ten years. (57) Conversely, white men and women are overrepresented in the legal profession compared with their overall proportion of the U.S. population. (58)

    This discrepancy stems from systematic oppression. (59) In the late 1800s and early 1900s, African Americans faced educational, financial, legal, and social impediments that created disincentives for them to attend or even consider attending law school. (60)...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT