Weil, Gotshal & Manges is introducing an initiative that will give students entering prestigious law schools the chance to work with U.S.-based nonprofits for a year.
The firm is investing $1 million per year and providing mentorship to 10 students to work in the public interest. And there’s no expectation that they’ll go to Weil—or even to Big Law—once law school is over.
The aim of the Weil Legal Innovators Program is to create incentives for participants, who are “the best and brightest,” to become future leaders of these nonprofit organizations, said Barry M. Wolf, the firm’s executive partner and chair of its management committee.
If all 10 decide upon graduation to work for a public interest group, the program will have been a “huge success,” he said.
Students who’ve been accepted to Columbia University Law School, Duke University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, New York University School of Law, and University of Pennsylvania Law School can apply to the program. The program is limited to the Northeast to start, but Wolf said the firm anticipates expanding it within the U.S. and internationally in the future.
Those who decide to participate will defer law school enrollment for one year to take part in the program. They can work at one of 20 partner nonprofits focusing on legal and non-legal work, including the National Urban League and United Way of New York.
The first application period will be fall 2019 and the inaugural 10 “innovators” will take part from July 2020 to July 2021.
Weil decided to offer the opportunity to students who’ve not yet begun law school with the hope that it will get them interested in social impact work early on so that they can make decisions about what they study and what summer jobs they take based on that interest, Wolf said.
The students will be paired with a firm mentor to help them with any questions about their nonprofit work as well as answer questions about Weil and law firm work.
Each will get $100,000. Half of that will be for that year’s salary, $10,000 will go toward a law-school scholarship, and the remainder will go to the nonprofit hosting the student, which is expected to provide a benefits package for the student from the funds.
More law firms have recently emphasized corporate responsibility beyond their standard pro bono efforts. They’ve tried to give back through focusing on community engagement, diversity and inclusion, pro bono legal service, sustainability, and funding programs like Weil’s that serve a public good.
Other Big Law firms like Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld have programs that expose participants to public interest work, but the applicants must have completed law school or be in law school.
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