On December 4, 2015, Proskauer's New York office became a vibrant center for legal education and career discovery as 40 ninth-graders from the Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law arrived to take part in the Street Law Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Conference. The day-long conference was part of a national program that draws on the talents of attorney volunteers to introduce young people from diverse communities to everyday law and the prospect of legal careers.
In the weeks leading up to the conference, 19 attorney volunteers from Proskauer and its client HBO had teamed up and taken part in a training session for teaching interactive lessons. The attorney volunteers then visited the students' school on three occasions to conduct classroom workshops on civil law and legal careers, setting the stage for the December conference.
Excitement, Intensity and Advocacy
For many students who arrived at Proskauer on December 4, it was their first time experiencing the reality of a major law firm – or really any corporate office environment. This on-site visit, heightened by the interaction with friendly, nurturing legal practitioners, helps students visualize how they might, with the right focus and determination, pursue a career in law.
"We are honored to work with Street Law," said Katharine Parker, a partner in the Firm's Labor and Employment Department. "It is a great organization and inspiring the next generation of lawyers."
A major reason for the success of this pipeline program is StreetLaw's ability to make the law come alive through activities and topics that engage students by reflecting their interests and passions. During the conference, students took part in three workshops, each with a different spin and set of challenges:
- Trademarking a cool new phone – Students began by brainstorming names for an innovative new mobile phone, then as a group narrowing their list of options based on distinctiveness – key attributes that might make certain names easier to trademark. Finally, they conducted an online trademark search to see if someone else had already trademarked their favorite names.
Investigating a sexual harassment claim — Small groups of students interviewed attorney volunteers who played the roles of employees involved in a sexual harassment claim. The catch: the play-actors had been given two lists: one contained facts they should disclose during their interview, and the second that had facts they should share only if probed by their interviewers. Based on what they'd learned, the groups of interviewers then had to make their case for whether company policies had been violated and, if so, what form resulting actions should take (e.g., warning, transfer, termination).
Negotiating a sneaker endorsement deal — Working in pairs, students were assigned to represent one of two parties in a negotiation: a leading footwear company or a basketball star whose endorsement the company was seeking. Students were asked to weigh any number of facts, ranging from the company's financial interests, to the player's recent on-court performance and off-court antics. After student pairs representing the company and athlete had formed their negotiation strategies, they were matched to conduct contract negotiations and strike a deal.
Even the lunch break dividing the workshops became an avenue for career exploration at the conference. HBO and Proskauer attorneys hosted 16 tables in a "Career Fair Lunch" where students could enjoy a meal while asking questions about life as a practicing attorney.
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