LCLD Member organization Accenture has long provided internships through LCLD and other partners worldwide—but as the COVID-19 crisis put many programs at risk, Accenture understood the added importance and moved its program to a virtual setting.
In March 2020, as Accenture moved more than 95% of its 500,000+ employees to work from home, its legal team was faced with a tough decision—could they continue with their annual internship programs in such a chaotic environment, and still deliver a high quality experience for interns?
“Everything happened so quickly in March and April, and rapid decisions were being made everywhere in the world,” remembers Crystal Contreras, Accenture Legal’s Global Change Management Lead, who coordinates the U.K. intern program. “But when we heard of other internship programs being cancelled, our leadership were even more resolved to do it.”
Positioned for Success
Made up of more than 2,800 lawyers and legal professionals in 46 countries, Accenture’s legal team is accustomed to working across geographies and time zones to get things done. In fact, it was the first LCLD Member to pivot LCLD's Success in Law School Mentoring Program to a remote setup. Accenture has partnered with LCLD Member firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP for the LCLD's 1L Scholars Program since 2017, and in 2020, it expanded its participation to include Scholars from five different law firms.
Accenture's agile work culture meant that some programs were already using a combination of live and virtual elements before the pandemic. But it’s one thing to schedule a mentor appointment virtually or work from home; creating an immersive, engaging, and on-going intern experience in a virtual setting was an entirely new challenge.
“Some of the best experiences for interns are the impromptu conversations that happen when they’re in the office,” said Paul Chadha, Geographic Legal Counsel and Accenture’s LCLD 1L Scholars coordinator. “We knew we’d need to work hard to recreate that in some way. At the same time, we were offering an experience many other organizations couldn’t—a well-established remote working culture.”
The team moved swiftly to set up the program, calling on tech support to prepare and ship devices, briefing partner organizations, and recruiting help from colleagues and teams to provide additional program support.
While Accenture’s clients scrambled to move their own operations remote in the wake of the pandemic, Accenture’s legal team was working around the clock to review contracts, support business teams serving clients, and provide counsel for the company’s own response. Despite the extenuating circumstances, the Legal team delivered on its commitment to the internship program, providing a meaningful experience for interns, even doubling the number of internships from previous years.
“The internship exceeded my expectations, and really gave me insight into what a career in law will look like,” said one intern. “The presenters were all so genuinely enthusiastic to speak to us and all very passionate about what they did,” said another.
Building a Diverse Pipeline
As an in-house legal department, Accenture Legal doesn’t recruit as many law graduates as law firms do, but it recognizes the importance of building a diverse pipeline for the next generation of lawyers.
“Many of our talented lawyers honed their craft at law firms, and we feel a responsibility to do our part to train the next generation,” said Annabel Dumbell, Accenture's European Director of Litigation, who leads the Legal team's Inclusion and Diversity efforts. “That’s why we have an array of programs that contribute to building a diverse pipeline in a sustainable way—including our intern and mentor programs.”
Work experience at Accenture gives interns valuable insight into the world of in-house counsel, as well as a glimpse into the workings of a professional services company at the forefront of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Interns see how the legal team navigates public policy, legislative frameworks, and ethical considerations in a digital era. (In fact, the intersection of these matters inspired a collaboration between Accenture, the University of Birmingham in the U.K., and key industry leaders to launch a Masters in Science program for Responsible Data Science—yet another way Accenture is building the next generation of lawyers.)
Accenture’s internship programs have received overwhelmingly positive feedback, including industry recognition for excellence in diversity and inclusion. The legal team is proud of what it achieved, but in true Accenture fashion, it’s already applying its learnings and thinking ahead.
“This pandemic has challenged us to think about how we work, live, learn and support others in a vastly different world.”
— Annabel Dumbell, European Director of Litigation at Accenture
“We assessed everything while it was fresh in our memory,” Contreras said. “The biggest lesson learned was the need to engineer networking opportunities and exposure to leadership—next year we might try more speed networking and increase the number of opportunities for the interns to expand their network.”
“This pandemic has challenged us to think about how we work, live, learn and support others in a vastly different world,” said Dumbell. “Just as the lines between work and home life have blurred, so too must the lines between the efforts of individual organizations and their programs. That’s why we value our membership with LCLD so much, and the opportunity to share our learnings with the network of peers it gives us access to.”