Silicon Valley’s inside and outside counsel are teaming up to boost diversity in law, with a new 1L program that gives students from underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to split 10 weeks of their summer between a firm and legal department.

Seven companies—eBay, Facebook, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, LendingClub, Symantec, Turo and Uber—and 12 firms*—Baker McKenzie; Boies Schiller Flexner; Cooley; Covington & Burling; Fenwick & West; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Hogan Lovells; Mayer Brown; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Morrison Foerster; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; and Perkins Coie—will participate. Around 14 students will be selected for the paid internship.

The inaugural Law in Technology Diversity Collaborative, announced Tuesday, comes as firms face increasing pressure to diversify from in-house counsel. Last month, 170 general counsel signed a letter drafted by Turo chief legal officer Michelle Fang pledging to prioritize outside counsel spend on diverse firms. Google and Adobe recently launched legal internships split with firms, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft and others have set diversity standards for outside counsel.

The collaborative is an expansion of eBay’s 1L summer program, introduced in 2016 by the San Jose-based company’s senior director of compensation, benefits and equity compliance David Pilson and senior product and commercial counsel of global intellectual property Patricia Svilik.

Pilson joined eBay in 2014, his first in-house role in Silicon Valley.

“At the time, I was the only African-American in eBay’s legal department. Working in Silicon Valley can be isolating at some points. And so that’s kind of where my passion for the program developed,” Pilson told Corporate Counsel. “I think by having a larger number of students out here, we can really create an experience that will last them a lifetime.”

In previous summers, eBay hosted two interns per year, splitting the 10-week program with partner firms. But Pilson and Svilik wanted to reach more students. From a resources perspective, Svilik said, it made sense to grow the program externally. She contacted other tech in-house counsel, many of whom were interested in the program.

Willie Hernandez, the deputy general counsel of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said the collaborative offers law students the rare opportunity of in-house experience alongside an introduction to law firms. HPE previously offered a 1L internship, but interns only spent the summer in-house.

Pilson and Svilik noted each of eBay’s previous interns landed an associate gig their 2L summer, a track record they attribute in part to interns’ previous firm experience.

“What we’re trying to do is bring more diverse talent to the profession in the first place, big companies and big law firms,” Hernandez said. “And then instill in them the confidence and the skills to really stay on the track and elevate themselves towards leadership, by giving them a strong start with these marketable skills and knowledge and an understanding of the legal landscape within a company.”

He said Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s interns will likely work on legal research and writing, regulatory issues, litigation and discovery efforts. Fang said students will have a different experience depending on their company and firm.

Some companies could take up to five interns, she said, while Turo, a smaller legal department, only plans to take one. Interns may start at the company or the firm. But they’ll all be invited to a series of networking and educational events hosted by the collaborative.

“I think the common thread [is] we’re really wanting everyone to leave with a professional cohort,” Fang said.

So far, more than 225 students have applied, Svilik said. Applications opened in December to students from nine schools: Howard University Law, Santa Clara Law, Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UC Irvine, and University of Miami Law.

Pilson and Svilik wanted a mixture of local law schools and non-California schools with high diversity scores.

“The other benefit of this program, in the larger sense, is that this broadens the horizons of some of the law firms and where they typically recruit. … I got feedback from some of the law firms. They said, ‘Oh, we don’t typically visit that school,’” Svilik said. “And I said to them, well that’s the point of the program. These are great students and they deserve to be considered.”


Reprinted with permission from the February 12, 2018 edition of Corporate Counsel © 2018 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.