This partnership will bring diversity into Maine’s law firms
A partnership between Maine’s three largest law firms and the University of Maine School of Law is aiming to bring diversity into the legal profession through an inclusive summer internship programme.
The Maine Diversity Summer Internship Programme is a collaborative effort between Bernstein Shur, Pierce Atwood, Verrill and the university which will recruit a diverse pool of first-year law students for 10-week summer internships at the firms.
The initial programme will commence next summer with six students, two for each law firm.
The programme will prioritise first-year law students who are members of historically underrepresented groups in the legal profession. This includes individuals of different races, colour, sexual orientation, national origin and disability.
Besides that, other criteria such as having an excellent academic record will also be considered during the applicant selection process.
The programme aims to provide meaningful private law firm work experiences to law students who have completed one year of study and to contribute to the diversity of the participating law firms and the Maine legal community.
Each participant will receive a job offer from one of the three participating law firms and be hired for a 10-week paid internship.
This will open up various opportunities for students to experience real-world legal practice, participate in professional development programmes, and build their social and business networks within the firm and the legal community.
While the American legal profession continues to be a growing industry, it’s still a predominantly white profession.
A report by Mainebiz highlighted data provided by the American Bar Association which showed that only 0.5 percent of lawyers have disabilities and less than four percent openly belong to the LGBT community.
This marks a striking contrast with the majority of the law sector with 85 percent of lawyers to be white and 64 percent of them being male.
“The American bar has a longstanding diversity problem, and the Maine bar is no different,” said Bernstein Shur director of attorney recruiting Joan Fortin in a statement to Mainebiz.
“This is a challenge that no one firm or legal employer will be able to overcome alone,” He said.
“Our hope is that by joining forces, our collective efforts may help to move the needle by bringing a group of talented and diverse group of talented and diverse students into the Maine legal market every summer, with the added hope that these law students will have a terrific experience and decide to pursue their legal careers here in Maine.”
The issue with diversity doesn’t only affect the big players in Maine’s law sector.
With the top three biggest law firms in Maine starting off the initiative, the programme will expand to include additional law firms, corporate legal departments, nonprofits, and other legal service providers in the future to contribute to the overall diversity in the state’s law profession.
Bernstein Shur CEO Patrick J. Scully said the idea for the programme came together through discussions with his counterparts at Verrill and Pierce Atwood.
“We soon agreed that by working together, we could accomplish more to increase diversity in Maine’s legal industry than any one firm could accomplish on its own,” he said.
“And we are very hopeful that in future years, other firms and other Maine employers or attorneys will join us and make this program even bigger and better.”
In the same report by Mainebiz, The University of Maine School of Law interim dean Dmitry Bam said that the school is guided by a longstanding commitment to diversity and public service.
Bam added that this initiative along with the law school’s existing PreLaw Undergraduate Scholars Programme, which also targets and gives preference to college students from underrepresented ethnic minority groups and rural communities, will help achieve diversity in the legal profession and ensure legal education opportunities are accessible to all.
The Maine Diversity Summer Associate Programme will be opened from December 15 and will be accepted on a rolling basis until February 3 2020. Interviews will then be conducted in February with a final selection of participants to be made by March.
This paid internship opportunity is set to run from May 26 to July 31 2020.