Partnering on LCLD’s 1L Scholars Program helped Altria and Hunton & Williams provide a unique and influential experience to a group of diverse summer associates—and enhance their client-firm relationship.
LCLD’s 1L Scholars Program provides additional opportunities and resources to first-year law students spending their summers at LCLD Member organizations. When law firms and corporations partner together, it can enhance the experience for students and organizations alike.
“The partnership helps further distinguish Hunton from other law firms that are proactively going out and recruiting these diverse law students,” said Wesley Bizzell, 2014 LCLD Fellow and Assistant General Counsel and Director of Political Law and Ethics Programs at Altria. “It furthers diversity, it gives young people an insight into in-house practice very early in their careers, and it strengthens Hunton’s diversity pipeline. And hopefully at some point, the Scholars will come back and serve as outside counsel for Altria.”
2017 1L Scholars hosted by Hunton & Williams and Altria, from left: Alyson Brown, Akiyah Francis, Jackie Chang, Victoria Chang, and Victoria Nguyen.
Many LCLD Member organizations, including Altria and Hunton, use typical secondment-style experiences, where summer associates split their time between a law firm and a legal department. But Hunton and Altria have also experimented with different approaches.
“The program we built together is unique, combining a traditional law firm clerkship with significant exposure to Altria’s Law Department,” said Randall Parks, Partner at Hunton & Williams. “The experience has been outstanding for us, since the unusual outside/inside program attracts some very strong candidates. We think it’s also a success for the students, with the 22 clerks (so far) going on to full-time positions with us or other firms in the Altria network and beyond.”
In 2017, Scholars did all their work at Hunton, while Altria designed a daylong Diverse Summer Associate Leadership Experience with them in mind. The event was open to diverse summer associates from all of Altria’s core firms, with about 40 associates in attendance. Scholars received an overview of in-house practice, leadership tips, practical advice on succeeding as diverse lawyers, and networking opportunities.
“One thing I found extremely helpful from my LCLD Fellows experience were the sessions that specifically focused on life as a diverse attorney and how that might be different for those of us who are diverse,” said Bizzell. “We wanted to provide some very frank advice and insights into practicing so that the Scholars would have information that would resonate with them throughout their careers.”
To make sure the programming was actually addressing the concerns of the Scholars in attendance, Altria sent the attendees an anonymous survey ahead of time.
Hosting an event? Use the LCLD network! Seven LCLD Fellows and two Members spoke at the Diverse Summer Associate Leadership Experience.
“We then took that information and incorporated questions and concerns raised by the summer associates into our panel discussions, which included perspectives from LCLD Fellows Jean Kuei, Nadira Clarke, and Vanessa Scott,” said Valyncia Saunders, 2011 Fellow and Senior Counsel at Altria. “The result was a robust conversation about what it means to navigate the legal profession as a diverse attorney.” Scholars also heard from former Altria General Counsel and LCLD Board Member Denise Keane and current General Counsel Murray Garnick. See the full agenda below.
The Scholars who attended from Hunton & Williams said the event was interesting and informative; it also provided critical networking with in-house attorneys.
“As a result of a connection I made at the Diverse Summer Associate Leadership Experience, I was able to attend an Altria Marketing and Sales meeting with an Altria attorney,” said Akiyah Francis, a 2017 1L Scholar. “I learned how Altria is committed not only to the professional development of diverse future attorneys, but they are also invested in ensuring that their products are distributed legally and safely… I truly enjoyed my experience.”