Guest Author: David G. Susler. David is associate general counsel for National Material L.P. He is currently the ACC Chicago Chapter’s president-elect and a member of the Chapter’s Diversity Internship Committee. He is also a member of the Leadership Council of Posse Foundation — Posse, Chicago.
Many lawyers are interested in and understand the value of mentoring. It is important for one’s own career advancement and for preparing the next generation of lawyers. We need to be mindful of passing along the best of our core values to the next generation of lawyers, instilling in them the importance of professionalism, “giving back” and “paying it forward,” as well as providing them with the necessary tools for career success. The ACC Chicago Chapter’s Diversity Law Student Summer Internship Program accomplishes all this and much more.
This summer is the program’s ninth year, and I am proud and privileged to be entering my sixth year serving on the committee that runs it. The intent of this blog is not to brag about the program but to spread the word about it and encourage other chapters to start their own programs. If your chapter already has such a program, I encourage you to engage with us, so we can learn from each other and enhance our approaches.
The ACC Chicago Chapter’s Diversity Law Student Summer Internship Program consists of two parts: a 10-week in-house legal internship at a Chicago-area company, and a mentoring program. During their internships, students do a variety of work, including legal research and memo writing, attending meetings, and generally experiencing what in-house attorneys do on a day-to-day basis. The host companies are required to provide at least one assignment that will result in a writing sample that the interns can use for future job interviews.
The mentoring portion of the program includes several evening group meetings (attended by all interns, mentors and other in-house lawyers), as well as one-on-one mentoring. Meetings include networking training, a résumé writing/interview workshop, a personal branding program and three purely social events. Each intern is assigned two mentors — a lawyer within the host legal department and a lawyer from ACC Chicago (either a committee member or other chapter member recruited by the committee).
While the law department work is certainly important, the mentoring aspect is, in my humble opinion, the crown jewel of the program. This is how we turn our “diamonds in the rough” into polished gems who are not only ready to succeed in their 2L interviews, but throughout their careers. The combination of one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring and access to networking with dozens of in-house lawyers provides unmatched opportunities for these students.
This program has grown in stature among companies wanting to host interns and among students seeking an internship. We’ve gone from two interns the first summer to 15 interns this summer, selected through a competitive application process (we received well over 100 applications this year).. We limit the program to a maximum of 15 interns each summer so that we can ensure high quality mentoring. (Note that we do not necessarily have 15 interns each summer — we make offers only to those candidates who meet our criteria, which may result in a class of less than 15.) The relationships formed between interns and mentors are intended to last well beyond the end of the summer. We do our best to keep in touch with and keep track of our interns after the program (admittedly with varying degrees of success). Although we do not have hard data, I know that many of our interns have moved on, even in the recession, to jobs with prestigious law firms and in-house departments, including several who went straight in-house after graduating. Words cannot adequately describe how rewarding it is to watch the interns mature from their interviews early in their second semester of law school into successful practitioners, knowing we helped set them on their paths.
There is not enough room here to describe in detail all aspects of this amazing program. I will close simply by encouraging you to consider a similar program for your chapter, as this is the best way to ensure a future generation of outstanding attorneys, particularly in-house attorneys, who will carry on the best of our profession. If you want to learn more about our program, and possibly starting one for your chapter, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).