February 18, 2013
The opportunity to get “in the trenches” experience at a leading law firm before entering law school is a rarity. Since 2011, Latham & Watkins has partnered with Sponsors For Educational Opportunity (SEO) to give talented, underrepresented students of color who have been accepted to top law schools just that.
SEO organizes paid summer internships at partner organizations, including banks, law firms and corporations. In addition to their internships, the future law students participate in SEO’s Law Institute, a two-week lecture series and networking forum led by top corporate lawyers and distinguished law school professors that teaches the skills necessary to excel during the first year of law school. In 2012 Latham hosted two SEO interns in Washington, D.C. and two in New York.
Real World Experience Means a Leg Up in Law School
An SEO internship at Latham offers opportunities to do real, material legal work. “We brought the SEO interns right into the fold of the summer associate program,” said Noreen Gallagher, Manager of Attorney Recruitment and Development. “We involved them in the same type of work and the same type of social opportunities.”
Having this experience prior to entering law school can be a real advantage. “It gives those students early exposure to the demands that would be placed on them in this type of environment,” said Gallagher. “They are really getting a leg up by being able to go through the motions of being a summer associate here with us before they are really held to the standard that would determine whether or not they would receive an offer.”
Creating Goodwill and Increasing the Pipeline of Diverse Lawyers
Latham’s SEO interns are open about just how rewarding the experience is. “I wanted to express my gratitude for a wonderful summer,” one 2012 intern wrote in a note to Sharon Bowen, a partner in the New York office and Co-chair of Latham’s Diversity Committee. “I feel so fortunate to have landed at Latham. … As an SEO intern I initially felt my lack of experience in a ‘Big Law’ setting or a law school classroom for that matter might single me out, but everyone I met quickly allayed my anxiety.” For Bowen feedback like this drives home the need for such a program. “When you get a letter like that it just reaffirms why it is important to look back and build a pipeline,” she said.
Bowen says it is already clear that the program has been a success. “I have no doubt that we already have a return on investment in terms of increasing diversity in the profession, which is really our goal.” Latham’s partnership with SEO is just one of the firm’s many programs aimed at increasing the pool of diverse students interested in pursuing a legal career at large law firms. Find out more about our diversity programs.