Law firms are weighing delaying or cutting summer associate classes as Big Law is disrupted by coronavirus
Law firms are considering delaying, shortening, or eliminating summer associate classes and are expected to make decisions in the coming days, sources familiar with the matter told Business Insider. The prospect has caused unease among students at the nation's top law schools, many of whom have paid their tuition in hopes of gaining entry into the nation's most elite firms. On March 23, NYU School of Law sent an email to students who were searching for private-sector jobs, seeking to inform them about the ongoing employment situation. The email noted that some firms "may be preparing for delayed start dates or alternative working arrangements." Click here for more BI Prime stories.
Law firms around the United States are weighing the possibility of delaying, shortening, or eliminating summer associate classes and are expected to make decisions in the coming days, people familiar with the matter have told Business Insider. Four sources told Business Insider that law firms, including the largest,said that in light of the disruption of the novel coronavirus, they were looking at changing their approach to bringing on summer associates, or interns who law firms hire following their first year in law school to get their first months experience in the legal profession. The internships are generally considered a stable track to a full-time offer after students once they complete their second year in law school. The four sources were one consultant and three partners at different Big Law firms, all of whom declined to be named publicly. "Demand is questionable and process is delayed," one said. "Some firms looking at reduced work weeks for reduced pay as a way to avoid harder choices." Another said that many firms "should be announcing soon that they will be delaying/shortening or eliminating theirs." A third said that he had heard "virtual summer programs" being considered, though he wasn't sure how that would work. NYU addresses concerns The prospect has caused unease among students at the nation's top law schools, many of whom have paid their tuition in hopes of gaining entry into the nation's most elite firms. On March 23, NYU School of Law sent an email to students who were searching for private-sector jobs, seeking to inform them about the ongoing employment situation, as the coronavirus continues to keep businesses closed. "We recognize that the current situation is creating a lot of stress and anxiety for many of you as you navigate switching to remote learning while also managing your own personal lives and contemplating your summer and post-graduation employment, whether you have secured a position or not," the email seen by Business Insider said. The email then went through a list of questions — like, "I've accepted an offer, but I'm worried about the economy. Should I be?" — and NYU offered answers. In one answer, NYU said it had reached out to all law firms that had recruited at the school for summer associate classes and "the good news is they are continuing to prepare for their summer and entry-level associates." But the email went on to state that some firms "may be preparing for delayed start dates or alternative working arrangements." The school said that it had asked the firms to work with incoming associates directly, but "we ask for your patience since most law firms are focused on their short-term plans," including adjusting to client needs. An NYU Law spokesman verified the contents of the email. Deans and professors at Yale Law School, Harvard Law School and Berkeley Law did not respond to a request for information about summer classes. Many big law firms including Gibson Dunn, Kirkland & Ellis, DLA Piper and Baker McKenzie, did not provide comment on how they were managing their classes, while others including Sheppard Mullin said they had not yet made a final decision. An Irell & Manella spokeswoman said that the Los Angeles-based firm had not made any changes to its summer program, but that "we are continually monitoring the evolving situation and will make logistical adjustments, if necessary, based on circumstances that exist at the start of the program." Law students disrupted Several law students interviewed by Business Insider offered early signs about their summer prospects. Kevin Frazier, a 1L at University of California, Berkeley, said that law firm meet-and-greet receptions had been postponed or cancelled, and that he was doing much of his recruiting outreach to firms via LinkedIn. "When you think about law firm recruiting in general, it's all about, 'Do I want to spend 7o to 80 hours a week with this person, and that's hard to establish on Zoom," said Frazier. "I don't think our traditional model of on-campus interviewing is going to stand up well against COVID-19, especially in a hot spot like the Bay Area," he said. Frazier, who previously was the executive assistant to Oregon governor Kate Brown before becoming a legal assistant at Google, is seeking employment at a law firm with a focus on tech, venture capital and intellectual property. He has an internship lined up this summer at Cloudflare, the internet company. One challenge he pointed to was that multiple law schools including his own had switched the grading system to credit, no-credit this semester, which makes it difficult for students to stand out. And even for those who did have legal internships intact already, there are worries about what kind of experience they would have once they were in the door. "It's a question of, 'What is my workload going to be like and am I going to get to go into the office and receive any real one-to-one feedback and teaching, which is arguably the most important part of an internship," he said. Students change plans Over on the East Coast, several students also expressed uncertainty about what's ahead. Catherine Katz, a 1L student at Harvard Law, had planned to land a legal internship in London, but given the international travel restrictions, she will spend more time promoting a book she just finished writing called the Daughters of Yalta. The book, slated for a September release, focuses on the relationships Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Averell Herriman had with their daughters during World War II. "We are in the face of uncertainty," said Katz, who is still exploring legal internships. "Every day brings new challenges. But as an author I'm glad to be able to put everything I have into this book." If you're a law student or practicing lawyer — or if you're working on Wall Street more broadly — we want to hear from you. Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org, DM on Twitter @caseyreports, or Signal message at 646 376 6017.SEE ALSO: Major law firms are weighing pay cuts for partners against unseemly staff layoffs as billings plunge SEE ALSO: 'All hands on deck': Restructuring lawyers say a sudden collapse of revenues is accelerating work with the retail and energy sectors SEE ALSO: Big Law M&A work is evaporating as coronavirus spreads, but some firms are about to make bank. Here are the winners and losers. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: What's inside the Mariana Trench
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An inside look at how Big Law firm Perkins Coie built up a diverse attorney base, winning major clients like Microsoft and Intel
Summary List Placement Law firms, like much of corporate America, are under renewed pressure to increase...Summary List Placement Law firms, like much of corporate America, are under renewed pressure to increase diversity among their ranks. Just 20% of equity partners at large US law firms are women, and only 7.6% are people of color, found a 2019 report by the National Association for Law Placement. Recent developments are signaling steps toward greater inclusion in an industry that's been largely dominated by white males. Hogan Lovells, for example, announced new diversity goals to increase the percentage of minority and LGBTQ+ partners, and Fenwick & West recently elected its most diverse class of partners, where over half are women. Large corporate clients are taking notice of these efforts, and are more actively setting diversity standards for counsel they work with — and rewarding those that meet them. In October, Perkins Coie, an Am Law 100 firm, was recognized as the top performing firm by Microsoft as part of its 2020 Law Firm Diversity Program. According to Microsoft, nearly 44% of Perkins Coie's partners are women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, or have disabilities, representing an approximately 10% growth from 34% five years ago. Read more: 2 key steps law firms must take to boost diversity — and how being inclusive can help land major clients like Microsoft The program incentivizes firms that increase their diversity among attorneys working on Microsoft matters, the firms' partners, and executive committees, rewarding them with a bonus of up to 2% of their annual fees by meeting these targets. Perkins Coie also won top honors as Intel's most diverse outside legal team in September. The global software company also announced the Intel Rule, under which only law firms that have at least 21% female equity partners and 10% equity partners of underrepresented minorities will be eligible to work for Intel. Business Insider spoke with two of Perkins Coie's members spearheading its inclusion initiatives on how it's built up a diverse firm, and the importance of effective partnerships with clients in doing so. Perkins Coie's recognition as one of the most diverse law firms is a result of years-long intentionality toward new hires and leadership opportunities Perkins Coie has cultivated a network of initiatives and programs — from recruitment and retention to promotions and business development — that support its broader strategy of fostering diversity and inclusion at the firm, explained Genhi Givings Bailey, its chief diversity and inclusion officer. The firm, for instance, has looked into expanding its 1L diversity program, through which around 20 to 30 first-year law students a year are given a $15,000 fellowship and the opportunity to work with other summer associates. And, among lateral hires in 2020, 75% were diverse, with 44% of them people of color. Bailey said that ensuring that there are opportunities for leadership among minority attorneys is another key to diversity at the firm. 63% of newly promoted partners were diverse this year, and Perkins Coie's executive committee is 65% diverse: 11 out of the 17 members are women, people of color, have disabilities, or are LGBTQ+. Read more: Female partners in Big Law make $332,000 less than male partners on average. But 1 change has been shown to increase women's salaries by more than 40% — and boost their happiness as well. "There has to be input from a broad group of people to ensure that there is diversity of thought among key policymakers at the firm," said Bailey. Even before this summer, when the murder of George Floyd sparked renewed calls for social justice, Perkins Coie had been having "bold," and sometimes difficult, conversations about race with the firm's leaders and wider diversity community of lawyers, said Bailey, who's been at the firm for two years. "In a word, it's intentionality," she said. "It's critically important that everyone in the firm across all levels be engaged and involved in the work." The firm hired its first full-time diversity professional in 2008, though its commitment to diversity extends back several years, said Bailey. Its first resource group dedicated to minorities at the firm, the Women's Forum, was created in 2007. The partnership with Microsoft is a key factor in ensuring equitable distribution of high-value legal work among diverse attorneys But it's not just the headcount of diverse lawyers that matters, but also their utilization, stressed both Bailey and Judy Jennison, partner at Perkins Coie and its lead client relationship attorney for Microsoft. When diverse lawyers are given the opportunity to take on more substantive, high-value legal work, like taking depositions and leading M&A projects, they're able to not only develop important legal skills, but also gain exposure that makes their "upward trajectory" toward advancement a little smoother, said Bailey. Perkins Coie's partnership with Microsoft is one "absolutely important" way to do this. "Microsoft is very demanding when it comes to making sure they have diverse lawyers working for them," explained Jennison. "It's a great marriage between their work and giving our lawyers the opportunity to shine, develop, and grow." Perkins Coie has what Jennison calls a "portfolio arrangement" partnership with Microsoft. The firm builds teams, called "pods," comprised of diverse attorneys that work with a particular workstream or set of clients within the company for a fixed fee. Though the size of the pods varies depending on the work, it averages around three to six lawyers, and most are 70 to 80% diverse, according to Jennison. "They become an extension of the internal legal team, which allows them to get greater exposure and more knowledge than getting discrete assignments through a partner who's the interface between the firm and Microsoft," said Jennison of the benefits of this system. "They're getting direct client contact and a much better understanding of how their legal work translates to business execution." Read more: The lawyer who sued Proskauer for $50 million over gender discrimination just launched her own firm. She lays out her vision for shaking up the legal industry by abolishing billable hour targets and hiring mainly women and minorities. The firm also collects data about the work done through this portfolio arrangement, allowing them to run reports across pods on how much each individual attorney is getting strategic, complex work. "The data allows us to be more thoughtful about assignments, and determine whether it's just happenstance that someone's getting less strategic work, or whether there's something systemic that we need to address," said Jennison. A moment that struck Jennison as especially meaningful was when Microsoft, learning that a diverse senior associate was up for partner at Perkins Coie, put together a memo with endorsements in support of the lawyer. He would've made partner anyway, she said, but it showed her just how seriously they understood the then-associate's career trajectory. "It's truly an interactive partnership, where we make sure that everybody is getting what they need on both sides," Jennison said. "It's a different way to practice law. And it is exceptionally rewarding for everybody involved."SEE ALSO: 2 key steps law firms must take to boost diversity — and how being inclusive can help land major clients like Microsoft SEE ALSO: Female partners in Big Law make $332,000 less than male partners on average. But 1 change has been shown to increase women's salaries by more than 40% — and boost their happiness as well. SEE ALSO: The lawyer who sued Proskauer for $50 million over gender discrimination just launched her own firm. She lays out her vision for shaking up the legal industry by abolishing billable hour targets and hiring mainly women and minorities. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why hurricanes hardly ever hit Europe
Law firms are using new tech to cut costs. These are the startups set to benefit — and what it means for the future of legal careers.
Summary List Placement The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated virtually every industry's path to digitize and...Summary List Placement The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated virtually every industry's path to digitize and the notoriously old-school world of law is no exception. Legal firms are demanding more innovation in a bid to improve efficiency and as clients seek lower costs. VCs are seeing promise in the space, opening their wallets to fund legal tech startups. Last year, Bloomberg Law reported that legal tech investments hit at least $1.2 billion by the end of the third quarter, surpassing the previous year's record of $1 billion. Business Insider has been tracking the latest from startups looking to disrupt the complex and paper-dependent industry and how legacy companies are adopting new digital tools. See the latest below. Legal tech startup news Litigation funding startup Legalist is seeing a boom in demand to back lawsuits — and is hoping to attract hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to keep up with the need These are the 10 hottest legal tech startups that have raised a combined $1.4 billion in VC funding from investors like Bessemer Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz Meet 9 legal tech startups that top VCs say are poised to take off as law firms look to cut costs and boost productivity Trustate, a new startup launched by an ex-DLA Piper attorney, is looking to disrupt a key part of an 'inefficient' $194 billion industry by easing the pain points of estate administration Legal industry warms up to tech Meet the AI-powered recruiting company used by investment banks like Lazard and Piper Sandler that's looking to transform how legal firms hire out of law school A virtual law firm is hiring freelance lawyers to create a Netflix-style subscription legal service that could disrupt the US legal industry Top law firms are starting to share exclusive data with clients to help them win legal disputes and clinch M&A deals. Here's why they're giving it away for free. The notoriously old-school legal industry is finally warming up to tech. Here are the winners and losers as law firms turn to startups to cut costs. How top law firm Mintz is using AI to help reduce costs for clients and alleviate work for associatesJoin the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: What makes 'Parasite' so shocking is the twist that happens in a 10-minute sequence
As Black Harvard Law School students, we've encountered racism at Harvard and elsewhere. But anti-Blackness goes far beyond our privileged Ivy League experiences — it's deeply rooted in American law and policy.
Mo Light, Kiah Duggins, and Daniel Oyolu are third-year students at Harvard Law School. A photo...Mo Light, Kiah Duggins, and Daniel Oyolu are third-year students at Harvard Law School. A photo of the JD candidates and their Black classmates went viral on LinkedIn after a white man reposted it and said the students looked 'like gang members.' Light, Duggins, and Oyolu say they've experienced this type of explicit anti-Blackness as well as microaggressions many times as Black Harvard law students, even from their own professors and non-Black classmates. They hope to educate readers on how much of American society is structured around anti-Blackness and how many of the nation's laws are fundamentally anti-Black. A Harvard Law School spokesperson gave a statement: "We are saddened by the difficult experiences our students have encountered and welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues. Racism, prejudice and discrimination have no place at Harvard Law School. We are committed to fostering a supportive, inclusive community in which every member is accorded dignity and respect, and in which all feel that this is their Harvard." Full statement is published below. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Millions of people came across a picture of our Black Harvard Law School ("HLS") classmates dressed in all black on the steps of Harvard Law's library. The picture was captioned, "Harvard University Law School Class of 2021" although only a portion of our class was present in that picture. A white man, Gene Smith, reposted our picture on his LinkedIn page and wrote that our classmates look like "gang members" to him. Many people were appalled that someone could look at a group of Harvard Law students — with a caption that clearly stated what we were — and see us as "gang members." Folks online quickly condemned the comment and proverbially stood in solidarity with our class. Our posts denouncing the act went viral and Gene's LinkedIn account has since been deleted. Gene's LinkedIn post was not the first time we've experienced explicit anti-Blackness as Black Harvard Law School students. In class, we often feel like we need to explain and defend various aspects of the Black experience. This feels especially anti-Black at Harvard Law because professors and students have access to more knowledge and information than nearly anyone else in the world. By, in effect, putting the burden on Black students to educate non-Black classmates and professors, the school shows how little it seems to care about Black history and Black students' education. The pervasive anti-Blackness in the classroom can make us feel so outraged that we have to speak up. For example, some professors have routinely praised Supreme Court cases that legalized anti-Black racism. When Black students inevitably push back, these professors double down and prioritize the Supreme Court justices' ideologies and writing styles over the violent effects that these justices' rulings have had on Black lives. Some professors and non-Black students will regularly espouse negative stereotypes about Black people and crime. When Black students speak up to challenge these stereotypes, we're typically ignored at best and actively silenced at worst. We have constantly dealt with microaggressions and assumptions that we do not belong. We have endured anti-Black messages sent by an anonymous attacker to Black students, saying we only got accepted to Harvard because of affirmative action and that our classmates are lucky to have us as a grade curve boost. Through all of these interactions, Harvard Law becomes a place where it feels like Black people's perspectives, voices and experiences are tangential and unimportant. On top of all this, we are often hesitant to speak up about the injustices we face because we fear that HLS may respond with disciplinary action or threats. HLS recently launched an investigation into students of color who engaged in an on-campus silent protest. Anti-Blackness is baked into many aspects of American law. These discrete instances of anti-Blackness, though exhausting, are symptoms of the more insidious problem that our country is currently reckoning with. It's difficult for Americans to believe that many of the laws in this country are fundamentally anti-Black, especially when that truth comes from Black students who enjoy the immense privilege of studying law at Harvard. Americans are socialized to believe that Black people can escape our dark pasts through hard work and education. But racist social media posts like Gene's and outrageous encounters like the one Christian Cooper — a Harvard graduate — had with a white woman in Central Park show that anti-Blackness has deep roots and stretches further than respectability or meritocracy. In other words, Black folks can reach the most prestigious levels of education and still be called thugs because so much of our society is structured around anti-Blackness. Much of property and contract law is based on America's 200+ year dependence on the then-legal institution of chattel slavery, which allowed white people to characterize and own Black people as property. Much of criminal law is rooted in the anti-Black policing that emerged during the Reconstruction era as a response to the loss of profits that white people experienced immediately after chattel slavery was legally abolished. The damages awarded in tort law are often based on calculations that put low income people of color at a disadvantage because of centuries of economic disenfranchisement. Harvard Law School itself came into existence as the result of wealth created by slave labor when a wealthy slave owner bequeathed some of his fortune to create Harvard Law's endowment. But at a top law school like Harvard Law, Black students — many of whom are the children of parents born during Jim Crow and the grandchildren of sharecroppers and the descendants of slaves — hear some non-Black classmates and white professors debate whether racism still exists. This collective denial of America's pervasive anti-Blackness is not only disorienting for Black HLS students, but deadly for Black people in America. As privileged Harvard Law students who have access to information about America's anti-Black roots, the very least that we can do for our community is tell the truth. We have to destroy narratives around respectability and meritocracy and promote solutions that uproot anti-Black systems, like defunding the police. Instead of being selectively outraged when Black Harvard students face anti-Black violence at the hands of the Harvard University Police Department, we must be outraged and mobilized when any Black person faces anti-Black violence. This racial wealth gap is a clear indicator of inequality and discrimination that has lasted for centuries. The violence that Black folks face isn't just physical. It is deeply structural and systemic and is weaved throughout all facets of society. For example, in 2016 the net worth of an average white family ($171,000) was nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family ($17,150). The opportunity gap that Black people face is the outcome of more than 240 years of enslavement, compounded by more than sixty years of Jim Crow Laws and a government that failed to protect its most vulnerable citizens. And this caused Black Americans to suffer. Poor congressional oversight and management of the Freedman's Savings Bank, a private corporation established by the US government to help newly freed Black Americans navigate their financial lives, left more than 61,000 Black depositors with losses nearly totaling $3 million in 1874. Then in 1921, the Tulsa "Black Wall Street" Massacre decimated a thriving Black American business and social community, while Jim Crow "Black Codes" severely limited economic and educational opportunities for Blacks in many southern states. Brown v. Board of Education called for the desegregation of public schools with "all deliberate speed" but was met with all deliberate delay. The GI bill left Black veterans without the same benefits as their white counterparts. Even, government-enforced residential segregation still exists and is largely unchanged to this day. But what do these statistics mean today? It means that the average Black American is less likely than a white American to quit their job and take time to travel or turn a passion (like painting or sculpting) into an actual business. It means that Black Americans will turn down unpaid internships even though it might be vital to advancing their careers. It means growing up without expensive hobbies like skiing, sailing, and golfing — and not being able to relate to coworkers or join in on company outings. It means fewer thriving Black entrepreneurs because risking it all doesn't affect just them; it affects their entire families who depend on their support. It means that it doesn't matter if a Black American graduates from Harvard, they will still have the same job call-back rate as that of a white state school graduate. It means that even if Black Americans earn $100,000 or more per year, they will probably end up living in neighborhoods with the same disadvantages as an average white household earning less than $30,000 per year. But it doesn't have to be this way. Laws don't magically write themselves. People write laws, enforce laws, and interpret laws. What if healthcare laws acknowledged and sought to change the fact that Black women, regardless of educational level, receive care from doctors inferior to that of their white counterparts? What if the laws that mandate young people attend school didn't ignore the fact that many Black students receive an educational experience inferior to that of white students in the US? What if the lawmakers that have allowed white people to earn billions from the marijuana industry admitted to arbitrarily enforcing drug laws that targeted Black communities — for decades — and included real provisions to achieve actual economic and criminal justice? The way that the law is taught must change. Many law school professors use the ideas of neutrality and objectivity to neutralize the plain fact that so many laws disproportionately harm Black people in this country. Laws may appear to be neutral, but in their implementation and application, we know they're not. By refusing to acknowledge and dismantle anti-Blackness, our law schools and our country continue to perpetuate it. Our belief that this country's laws can be better and do more for Black citizens motivated us to attend law school and engage critically with our legal education. Harvard Law School can do better. Our country's lawmakers can do better. Our society can do better. The protests on the streets of cities across the United States are an ever present reminder that we must do better. Editor's note: Jeff Neal, senior director of communications and media relations at Harvard Law School, provided this statement. "We are saddened by the difficult experiences our students have encountered and welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues. Racism, prejudice and discrimination have no place at Harvard Law School. We are committed to fostering a supportive, inclusive community in which every member is accorded dignity and respect, and in which all feel that this is their Harvard. We will always work vigilantly to foster such a community, including in our ongoing work to advance the vital goal of diversity in every aspect of what we do. In addition, the Law School recently announced a series of new initiatives to build on longstanding efforts to support equal justice. These include the creation of a new program focused on mass incarceration, the establishment of a new legal journal focused on law and equality, and a number of new lecture series for students, faculty and staff that will address foundational questions of racial justice." Daniel Oyolu is an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, Kiah Duggins is the president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and Mo Light is the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Daniel, Kiah, and Mo are third-year students set to graduate in 2021.SEE ALSO: I worked for Refinery29 and the microaggressions, racial bias, and toxic environment I experienced almost made me quit journalism READ MORE: CEOs from 24 major companies like Pfizer, CarMax, HP, Prudential Financial, and more reveal action plans for racial equality Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: July 15 is Tax Day — here's what it's like to do your own taxes for the very first time