Letter From A Member Of The San Diego Chapter Of The Association of Corporate Counsel

2011-02-28 01:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

SDCBA-ACC-SD Diversity Fellowship Program Creates Opportunity, Increases Diversity

Exposure and opportunity create better lawyers, law firms and legal departments. The San Diego County Bar Association and Association of Corporate Counsel-San Diego Diversity Fellowship Program ("DFP") was created to provide exposure and opportunity for law students, law firms and legal departments in an effort to increase diversity in the San Diego legal community. Diversity in society, in our schools and specifically in the professional community creates an exposure to varying viewpoints and backgrounds, leading to a broader perspective on life and professional decisions. This in turn makes it possible for law firms, companies and society to evolve and grow successfully, something that is better for everyone.

I can personally attest to the idea that exposure and opportunity are key to being the best you can be. Prior to my employment here at SANYO North America Corporation, I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to work at a wonderful law firm in San Diego, Higgs, Fletcher & Mack, and a fantastic corporate legal department at Gateway, Inc.At those organizations, I was equally blessed and thankful to have been exposed to some wonderful people who shaped the lawyer I am today, so much so, I feel the need to thank a few of them, including Jim Peterson, Susan Hack, Alexis Gutierrez, Loren Freestone, Steve Cologne and Greg Call. These people taught me how to think more critically, work more diligently, and communicate more compassionately, all skills that have enabled me to be a better lawyer. There were many others in addition to these people who were positive influences in my professional development and will certainly play a role in my future endeavors.

I was lucky to get the chance to learn and grow with exposure to so many good people and groups. Some very intelligent, dedicated and socially conscious individuals here in San Diego wanted to provide such exposure and opportunity to the lawyers of tomorrow, as well as the legal community of today. As a result, they developed the DFP in San Diego in 2009 and patterned it after similar programs in other cities. By creating summer job opportunities at respected law firms and corporate legal departments, the DFP provides specific opportunities for diverse law students to learn and develop skills that are necessary to be successful in law firm and corporate legal department environments, while at the same time exposing law firms and corporate legal departments to qualified individuals who might not otherwise have come to their attention. Student participants are first-year diverse law students or part-time, second-year law students, who apply for participation in the program by submitting a writing sample, application, resume and letters of recommendation. They are then interviewed by the DFP subcommittee (not the participating employer) and ultimately selected for placement at a participating employer as a fellow.

I have been participating in DFP since its inception on behalf of the ACCA-SD chapter and am proud of the opportunities it has created. In its inaugural summer of 2009, the DFP had 7 participating employers and 8 fellowship positions. In our program's second summer (2010), we had 11 participating employers and 12 fellowship positions. Our hope is that the program continues to expand as we provide the opportunity for law students to learn and grow, and for law firms and legal departments to be exposed to the benefits of diversity in the organization.

With today's rapidly evolving world, it is critical to be cognizant of, and working towards, a diverse legal community. Many will acknowledge this fact, but not nearly as many will do something about it. The DFP here in San Diego is trying to do something about it.

If you are interested in participating as an employer or simply learning more about the DFP in San Diego, please visit http://www.acc.com/chapters/sandiego/ Diversity-Fellowship-Program.cfm or https://www.sdcba.org/index.cfm?pg=DiversityFellowship.

Sincerely Yours, Shaka Johnson