New York: Filling the pipeline
Growing up in the South Bronx, William Guerrero couldn't imagine going to college. No one in his family had been to college, and he was attending one of the most violent middle schools in New York City. But then his principal suggested he apply to a high school called Cristo Rey, where students work one day each week at a corporation or law firm. William enrolled in Cristo Rey and became a student intern in the White & Case accounting department. He graduated from Cristo Rey in 2012 and is now a freshman at the College of the Holy Cross with plans to major in accounting.
In our student "pipeline" programs, disadvantaged youth learn about the law and the legal profession.
White & Case was a founding corporate work-study partner in 2006 when Cristo Rey High School opened its doors and has hosted ten interns from the school every year since then.
"My experience at White & Case helped shape who I want to become not only as a professional but as a person as well," said William. "It also taught me that being a professional means more than making money. It is how you carry and present yourself as well as understanding that you have a responsibility to give back to your community."
In 2011, we proposed that Cristo Rey collaborate with us to participate in the Law Firm Legal Diversity Pipeline Program organized by Street Law, a nonprofit organization that educates students about the law. For each of the last two years, approximately 20 White & Case lawyers visited the Cristo Rey junior year history class to teach legal topics relevant to history and describe the different fields of law. The program culminates in the Street Law Firm Event Day, when more than 90 students—the entire junior class—visit the office to practice negotiating contracts and participate in mock depositions and trials. The students tour the office and interact with nearly 50 White & Case lawyers and staff. Tom Sites, a history teacher at Cristo Rey, reflected on the educational value of the program, saying "I have never seen the students so engaged in a topic."
London: Mentoring for success
Jill Maynard, a secretary in the White & Case London office, was speaking with a woman who had been out of work for several years. Jill was one of more than 40 White & Case lawyers and staff who volunteered to work with clients of Dress for Success London to teach employability skills. This client was clearly not at ease, and the conversation was so slow to get started that Jill wasn't sure if she could help.
Our employability programs give people the skills and confidence they need to find jobs.
White & Case partnered with Dress for Success London to pilot a "Breakfast Club" Employability Workshop Program. Dress for Success is an international nonprofit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional clothes, a support network and employability tools. We have run two sets of 12-week breakfast workshops for clients of Dress for Success London with topics such as workplace culture, goal-setting, interview skills and building confidence.
"This program is unique," said Delyth Evans, Chief Executive of Dress for Success. "Many welfare-to-work organizations offer employment workshops and employability schemes, but as far as we are aware, no one else is offering a program that takes unemployed women into the corporate environment and works with them to address their fears, leaving them better equipped on a number of levels to re-enter the world of work."
Sharing her professional experiences, Jill engaged the client, and they discussed her concerns about finding a job and the importance of confidence in an interview. Acting on advice from Jill and the skills learned throughout the program, Jill's client found a job the following week.
Twenty-nine of the 43 women who attended these workshops found work or training following the program. These results are particularly noteworthy considering that many of the women had been out of work for five or more years. Dress for Success is expanding the program to other firms and organizations.